Physical Therapy for a Car Accident Injury

Published by Brad Lyons MSPT, COMT on

In the following article we’ll explore when, where, and why you might seek out physical therapy for a car accident injury.

Most Americans will be in a car accident at some point. While the term “car accident” calls to mind a messy rear-ender on Spokane’s busy I-90, a car accident in the Inland Northwest can mean many other things. It could mean a collision with an animal that occurs at moderate or high speeds. It could mean sliding your car into a ditch during our rough Spokane and North Idaho winters. It could even mean a hard and sudden break that allows you to avoid hitting another vehicle, but that causes your body to be thrown around in damaging ways.

The question is when, why, and where should you seek physical therapy for a car accident injury? Read on if you or a loved one has recently experienced a car incident of any kind. Check the symptoms listed to see if you (or they) could suffer from the most common car accident injuries and if physical therapy is the right next step.

What Injuries May Occur as a Result of a Car Accident?

Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, ranging from minor to severe, depending on the circumstances and the force of impact. Not all injuries are immediately apparent, and the following list is not exhaustive. However, the most common injuries that may occur from car accidents include the following:

  1. Soft Tissue Injuries: Sprains, strains, and other soft tissue injuries can occur in muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  2. Whiplash: A neck injury caused by a sudden forward and backward head movement, often seen in rear-end collisions.
  3. Head and Brain Injuries: Concussions or more severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can result from hitting the head on a hard surface during the accident.
  4. Contusions and Bruises: Bruises and contusions may occur from the impact with the steering wheel, dashboard, or other hard surfaces inside the car.
  5. Cuts and Lacerations: Broken glass, deployed airbags, or other sharp objects inside the vehicle can cause cuts and lacerations.
  6. Chest Injuries: The chest can be injured by impact with the steering wheel or dashboard, resulting in bruised ribs or internal injuries.
  7. Internal Injuries: Organs can be damaged due to the force of impact, leading to internal bleeding or organ rupture.
  8. Psychological Trauma: Car accidents can cause emotional distress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some individuals.
  9. Fractures: Bones can break due to the force of the impact, such as fractures in the arms, legs, ribs, or skull.

Symptoms to Look Out for When Considering Physical Therapy for a Car Accident Injury.

While many car accidents are minor, with all parties walking away after the fact, even such minor car accidents can have damaging long-term effects on the body. The most common injuries resulting from minor car accidents are soft tissue injuries, whiplash, and head and brain injuries. If you’ve recently been in a car accident (even a minor one), carefully read the list below to see if any symptoms apply.

Symptoms of a Soft Tissue Injury:

  1. Pain: The most prevalent symptom of a soft tissue injury is pain, which may be sharp, dull, or throbbing.
  2. Swelling: Swelling often occurs around the injured area due to inflammation and increased blood flow.
  3. Bruising: Bruising or discoloration of the skin may appear near the injured site.
  4. Stiffness: The affected area may become stiff and difficult to move.
  5. Limited range of motion: Difficulty moving the injured body part through its full range of motion.
  6. Weakness: Reduced strength in the injured area or difficulty bearing weight.
  7. Muscle spasms: In some cases, muscle spasms may occur around the injured area.
  8. Warmth or redness: The injured area may feel warm to the touch, and the skin may appear reddened.

Symptoms of Whiplash

  1. Neck pain and stiffness: Pain and discomfort in the neck are typical symptoms of whiplash, often accompanied by a limited range of motion.
  2. Headaches: Headaches, especially starting from the base of the skull.
  3. Shoulder and upper back pain: The impact can cause pain and tension in the shoulders and upper back.
  4. Dizziness: Whiplash can lead to feelings of dizziness or vertigo.
  5. Fatigue: Many individuals with whiplash may experience fatigue or tiredness.
  6. Tingling or numbness: Some people may experience tingling in the arms and hands.
  7. Muscle spasms: Whiplash can cause muscle spasms in the neck and upper back.
  8. Pain in the jaw: Whiplash may lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and discomfort.
  9. Visual disturbances: Blurred vision or difficulty focusing on objects may occur.
  10. Ringing in the ears (tinnitus): Some individuals may experience a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears.

Symptoms of Concussion

  1. Headache: A persistent or worsening headache is a common concussion symptom.
  2. Confusion: Feeling disoriented, confused, or having trouble concentrating.
  3. Memory problems: Difficulty remembering recent events or information.
  4. Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or having a sense of spinning.
  5. Nausea or vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea or vomiting following a concussion.
  6. Fatigue: Feeling tired, lethargic, or having reduced energy levels.
  7. Sensitivity to light and noise: Bright lights or loud noises may worsen symptoms of a concussion.
  8. Blurred vision: Vision problems or difficulty focusing.
  9. Slurred speech: Speech may be impaired or slowed down.
  10. Mood changes: Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression.
  11. Sleep disturbances: Changes in sleep patterns, such as trouble falling asleep or excessive sleepiness.

When to Seek Physical Therapy for a Car Accident Injury

Hint: The short answer is RIGHT AWAY!

If one or more of the above symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to seek physical therapy for you or your loved one. You can make an appointment immediately because Washington and Idaho allow for evaluation and treatment from a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral through Direct Access legislation. The goal of Direct Access legislation is to eliminate barriers to care. This results in more effective and quicker healthcare.

When you make a physical therapy appointment right away after a car accident, you reduce the chances that an injury will grow more severe or become exacerbated with your regular movements or work activities. Your physical therapist at Synergy Healthcare will evaluate your symptoms in-depth to ensure they’re the best fit to help you. If your physical therapist believes you would benefit from a doctor’s appointment, they’ll let you know immediately. In many cases, going directly to physical therapy after a car accident is beneficial and cost-effective. You’ll get on the road to recovery immediately and can return to work and do what you love more quickly.

Seek Physical Therapy for a Car Accident Right Away, as Some Injuries Have Delayed Onset.

While many injuries from car accidents may be immediately apparent, others might only become noticeable hours, days, or even weeks after the accident. This delayed onset of symptoms can occur for various reasons:

  1. Adrenaline and shock: After a car accident, the body releases adrenaline, which can temporarily mask pain and other symptoms. This natural response can make it challenging to recognize injuries immediately.
  2. Concussions and brain injuries: The symptoms of a concussion may not appear immediately, and it can take hours or days for signs like headache, dizziness, or memory problems to manifest.
  3. Internal injuries: Internal injuries, such as organ damage or internal bleeding, may not present immediate symptoms but can become evident over time as they worsen.
  4. Psychological trauma: Emotional and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may not become apparent until after the initial shock of the accident wears off.

Due to the possibility of delayed onset, seeking Physical Therapy after a car accident is essential, even if you feel fine initially.

Why Seek Physical Therapy for Car Accident Injuries?

To answer this question, check out our blog post on how Physical Therapy can Benefit you after a Car Accident. It lists all the ways that physical therapy can help with injuries after a car accident. Some of these are ways that you might expect, but others are unexpected benefits, like avoiding surgery or boosting mental health.

The short answer is that physical therapists are experts in treating the many injuries that could result from a car accident. The team at Synergy Healthcare includes some of the most experienced Physical Therapists in Spokane Valley. They not only work with musculoskeletal problems but also with the nerve, vestibular, and emotional effects of a car accident.

Will my Driver’s Insurance Cover Physical Therapy for a Car Accident?

In car accident claims, the at-fault driver’s car insurance typically covers your physical therapy treatments if the treatments are deemed medically necessary. Synergy physical therapy takes insurance from the following carriers:

State Farm
Liberty Mutual
American Family
and many more…

Take Three Easy Steps to Get Highly Effective Physical Therapy for a Car Accident Injury:

Step 1. Click the green button below. It’ll take you to a form to request a free discovery call. Filling out the form takes less than one minute.
Step 2. Our expert staff will reach out to you as soon as possible. They’ll ask many questions to learn about you, your health challenges, and the goals you’d like to achieve from working with us. We’ll use the opportunity to make sure we’re the perfect fit.
Step 3. If you decide to work with us, we’ll schedule your first appointment! If you choose not to work with us or if we aren’t a perfect fit, we’ll be happy to share other resources to help you get what you need. Have questions? Please email us.

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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.