Physical therapy after a car accident

Published by Brad Lyons MSPT, COMT on

Suppose you’re the victim of a car accident. In that case, you may wonder if seeking physical therapy is necessary – especially if you don’t feel any injuries at first. If you’re considering physical therapy after a car accident, there are many reasons that you may want to get seen right away. Most people begin physical therapy within three days of the accident. While that might seem soon, going to physical therapy provides enormous benefits. Let’s look at some reasons you should go to physical therapy immediately.

A physical therapist can help you understand your injuries.

Your doctor may recommend that you receive physical therapy, or you may realize on your own that you have stiffness, soreness, pains, or headaches. In either case, you can benefit from rehabilitative treatment and should see a physical therapist.

In most cases you don’t need a doctor’s referral to seek out physical therapy, but we strongly suggest confirming with your auto insurance if one is needed. After checking with your auto insurance company, you should immediately go to a doctor or physical therapy clinic. By performing a thorough evaluation, a physical therapist can help you assess the severity of your situation. They can also help determine if you need to see a specialist before beginning physical therapy. While physical therapists can be beneficial in the vast majority of car accident injuries, some symptoms warrant a visit to your local emergency room first. (1,2,3,4)

For example, the following symptoms may warrant a journey to the emergency room.
  • Pain and stiffness are typical. However, an inability to move or turn your head at all is not
  • Headaches are normal, but severe and unrelenting headaches are not
  • Weakness or a “pins and needles” sensation in more than one arm/leg is a concern
  • Loss of consciousness should always be discussed with your medical provider
  • Bowel or bladder changes
  • Groin numbness

If your symptoms aren’t so severe that you must visit the emergency room, it’s time to get to a physical therapy clinic as quickly as possible. Here’s everything you need to know about physical therapy after a car accident.

Feel better faster with physical therapy after a car accident.

When you’re hurt in a car accident, you want to return to your life as quickly as possible. No matter what your symptoms are – pains, sprains, headaches, or nerve-tingling – attending physical therapy after a car accident can help you recover. Physical therapy can help your body regain strength, mobility, and function to reduce the time it takes to see improvement and fully recover from your injuries. For any soft tissue injuries, physical therapy after a car accident can help with limitations you may have incurred.

Recover more completely with physical therapy after a car accident.

In addition to helping you recover faster, physical therapy treatments can also help you see a better outcome from any medical care you receive after a car accident. Depending on how severe your injuries are, you may believe it’s impossible to regain the ability to walk, recover full movement in your arms, hands, or wrists, or function without shoulder or neck pain. However, physical therapy can help you ensure that you recover to the fullest extent possible based on your injuries.

You can prevent long term damage with physical therapy after a car accident.

In car accident injuries, there is a high possibility of lingering damage if your injuries are not addressed immediately—the reason why is surprising. After an injury, your body increases the blood flow to the injured area to promote healing. This can cause the site to swell and be pretty painful, but it’s a normal response. If the injured area doesn’t heal properly, the inflammation can continue indefinitely, leading to a chronic problem. Fortunately, you can avoid this by starting physical therapy right away. Physical therapy helps address immediate injuries by improving strength, flexibility, and mobility and can also prevent long-term damage like chronic pain and migraines. Your physical therapist will help you recover from your injury while helping to prevent inflammation from becoming chronic. 

If you begin physical therapy immediately after your accident, you are much more likely to be free of complications and to live a pain-free life for years and years to come. This is true even when you wouldn’t expect it. Those who have a car accident and do not immediately receive physical therapy were far more likely to suffer from degenerative disc disease than those who did receive immediate medical attention (5). This unexpected correlation underscores the importance of prompt, high-quality physical therapy treatment.

You can prevent compounded damage with physical therapy.

Physical therapy sessions can help prevent secondary injuries that might occur due to weakness or “favoring” an injured area. In a weakened state, you might suffer from a fall or strain. Alternatively, if you’re favoring a hurt knee or shoulder, you may develop harmful patterns of movement, tension, or stress that could lead to injury or discomfort in the long term. Physical therapy can help you address this risk and prevent additional harm from your injuries following a car accident.

Getting treatment helps reduce reliance on painkillers.

After a car accident, you may need medicine to manage your pain while you recover. If you’re concerned about developing a reliance on painkillers, physical therapy can be a solution. Physical therapy can help you reduce or eliminate the use of painkillers in the recovery process.

Synergy Physical Therapy in Spokane Valley also offers added therapies to reduce pain. Modalities like Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) are very effective at decreasing pain. Myofascial Release and Neural Manipulation are other therapies that help with pain after a car accident. Each of these therapies is a gentle technique to loosen and ease various tissues – which can reduce pain.

Physical therapy can boost your mental health!

When you’re the victim of a car accident your mental health can suffer, as well as your physical health. It can feel lonely, isolating, and scary to be in pain that prevents you from engaging in regular activities. 

Attending physical therapy can help you boost your mood, experience community, and feel cared for. Feeling better emotionally and physically can help you speed up your recovery process.

Physical therapy helps you return to physical activity, which chan help reduce pain.

While moving around may sound like the last thing you need to do after a car accident, being physically active can help reduce pain and help you recover from your injuries much quicker than bed rest. Movement pumps oxygenated blood and other nutrients to the injury site, allowing the body to heal. At Synergy Physical Therapy in Spokane Valley, our specialists create unique, individualized programs to help patients address pain points and poor body mechanics. Every exercise, technique, or stretch we might perform or prescribe has a specific purpose and goal to improve mobility and function. As you regain more range of motion, pain-free movement, and normal body function, you are closer to a balanced and complete recovery.

Physical therapy may help avoid surgery.

While serious car accident injuries will likely need surgery immediately, non-life-threatening injuries are not always exempt from surgery. In fact, a car accident injury, combined with natural wear and tear, may cause you to need surgery later in life. This is especially true for patients who don’t seek rehabilitative treatment right away. Surgeries can be invasive and painful. Avoid these complications down the road – immediately seek out physical therapy after a car accident.

Physical therapy helps vulnerable muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which helps protect various structures throughout the body. In the long term, physical therapy is a much more cost-effective solution for treating your pain and doesn’t require the downtime needed for surgery.

Physical therapy can restore function in patients with old car accident injuries.

If your car accident happened a long time ago, that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from physical therapy. Physical therapy can help restore function and mobility in patients with old car accident injuries. Using various training exercises and rehabilitation techniques, patients can achieve as close to a pain-free lifestyle as possible through physical therapy. Moreover, patients can rest assured knowing physical therapy is a safe and non-invasive treatment for relief.

What if you need physical therapy right now?

After a car accident, you need the best possible medical care right away. If you’re in pain right now: Synergy Physical Therapy in Spokane Valley is standing by to help you with same-day appointments. This way, you don’t have to wait for your needed treatment. The best way to feel better and schedule a same-day appointment is to call us.

  1. Wells GA, Vandemheen KL, Clement CM, Lesiuk H, De Maio VJ, Laupacis A, Schull S, McKnight RD, Verbeek R, Brison R, Cass D, Dreyer J, Eisenhauer MA, Greenberg GH, MacPhail I, Morrison L, Reardon M, Worthington J,(2001) The Canadian C-Spine Rule for Radiography in Alert and Stable Trauma Patients, JAMA. 2001;286(15):1841-1848. 
  2. Beaudry M, Spence DJ, Motor vehicle accidents: the most common cause of traumatic vertebrobasilar ischemia  (2003) Can J Neurol Sci. Nov; 30 (4):320-5.   
    Finucane L, Downie A, Mercer C, Greenhalgh S, Boissonnault WG, Pool-Goudzwaard A, Beneciuk J, Leech R, Selfe J.  International Framework for Red Flags for Potential Serious Spinal Pathologies
  3. Rushton A, Carlesso LC, Flynn T, Hing WA, Kerry R, Rubinstein SM, Vogel S, (2020)  International Framework for Examination of the Cervical Region for potential of vascular pathologies of the neck prior to Orthopaedic Manual Therapy (OMT) Intervention: International IFOMPT Cervical Framework 
  4. J. Monroe Laborde, MD, MS, Biomechanics of Minor Automobile Accidents: Treatment Implications for Associated Chronic Spine Symptoms, Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedic Surgery, Tulane University, New Orleans, La

Brad Lyons MSPT, COMT

Brad Lyons MSPT, COMT is a Physical Therapist and Clinical Manager at Synergy Healthcare in Spokane Valley. His specialties include Myokinesthetics, spinal and peripheral mobilization, Myofascial cupping, Myofascial techniques, and injured workers. Brad was honored to be selected as one of the first 50 Physical Therapists in the US to receive the certification of COMT – Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapy from the Maitland/Australian Physiotherapy Seminars.