Why Is It Important to Seek Physical Therapy after a Car Accident?

Statistics reveal that approximately 4.4 million automobile drivers and passengers sustain serious injuries after collisions. The fortunate few who might not need immediate medical attention still require effective physical therapy after a car accident.

Road accidents can occur because of rough weather, reckless driving, hazards, and other unexpected reasons. You might not be able to stop some accidents but what you do right after can impact your whole life. Seeking assistance from a physical therapist nearby can prevent you from leading a debilitating life after a crash. Continue reading to find out how we can help.

The Aftermath: What Are the Most Common Car Accident Injuries?

Injuries sustained during an automobile accident can vary depending on how the collision occurred. Fortunate drivers walk away with minor scrapes and cuts while others receive fatal wounds. In both cases, you may experience long-term repercussions of a collision days after the incident.

Here’s an overview of the most common automobile accident injuries:

  • Minor scrapes and cuts sustained from broken glass and shards
  • Muscle sprains/strains due to undue pressure experienced when the body collided with the car
  • A concussion caused by a head injury
  • A whiplash injury localized to the neck because of its “rapid-back-and-forth movement” during a collision
  • Traumatic brain injury harms internal tissues after one receives a violent blow to the head Broken bones and fractures
  • Arm and leg injuries that affect the muscles and joints

Apart from this, you may experience headaches, dizziness, weakness, and mobility issues post-accident, along with the pain. Even if there are no visible injuries, medical experts strongly advise drivers (and passengers) to receive immediate treatment. It might involve immobilization, neck braces, pain medication, and physical therapy.

Physical therapy after a car accident typically comes after your body has received sufficient time to heal superficial wounds. That said, prolonging treatment from physical therapists can result in permanent damage.

Risks include:

  • Continuous chronic pain in the affected areas
  • Frequent migraines and spasms
  • Muscle weakness and stiffness
  • Limited mobility and coordination issues
  • Paralysis

You can avoid the long-term consequences of an accident and possible surgery by receiving professional support through physical therapy. An experienced practitioner can facilitate full recovery if there are no delays.

The Benefits: How Important Is Physical Therapy After a Car Accident? 

Most people think that car accident victims should spend most of their time resting and avoiding physical activity. While RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Rest) might provide immediate relief after an injury, prolonged resting can be debilitating. It prevents muscles and joints from regaining lost agility and makes your body sluggish. Due to this, you might have a relatively more challenging time getting back on your feet when you decide to resume work.

Therefore, doctors recommend physical therapy as soon as patients are stable. A holistic treatment plan can reverse signs of trauma and pain. Additionally, it can even help alleviate mental stressors, and depression triggered after a traumatic accident.

Here are the primary advantages of physical therapy after a car accident:

It Can Accelerate Natural Recovery Process

Physical therapy after an auto accident is essential after surgery but equally important if your wounds are superficial. These therapy programs target affected sites and internal injuries that require additional support to heal.

We do this through a combination of exercises and treatments such as:

  • Personalized home exercise regimes to strengthen affected muscles for reducing spine dysfunction, joint pain, and stiffness
  • Guided exercises conducted under the supervision of an experienced physical therapist to prevent missteps
  • Postural training to address pain in and around specific sites (i.e., shoulders, back, and neck)
  • Electrical stimulation therapy to boost blood circulation and heal damaged nerve fibers
  • Manual therapy to mobilize joints and soothe inflamed tissues/muscles
  • Functional training exercises to improve motor skills and muscle coordination to resume daily activities (i.e., walking, running, grabbing, pulling, and picking things) after a traumatic accident

These plans are adjusted according to your symptoms and healing process to provide maximum comfort during treatment. Physical therapists aim to strengthen your muscles, improve agility, and regain optimal movement faster through a personalized program.

Without regular movement, you may experience recurring muscle pain (in the neck, back, joints) when you return to work.

It Can Reduce the Risk of Surgery

Surgeries are costly and often preventable if you consult a physical therapist early in your recovery phase. Here we refer to post-accident surgeries required months after an accident and not the ones required to treat severe injuries in the aftermath.

Many automobile accidents result in long-term injuries and chronic pain. A time may come when your doctors will suggest surgery to ease your pain and suffering. For example, the daily wear and tear of your injured knee joint can accelerate the development of severe medical conditions like arthritis. Due to this, you might need a knee replacement sooner rather than later. The same thing can happen with other joints (i.e., hips, elbows, and shoulders).

On the other hand, if you begin physical therapy after a car accident, you can reduce the regressive deterioration of your bones. Specific exercises strengthen muscles and ligaments around affected joints to improve mobility. Consequently, these practices ensure that your muscles and bones heal with time— minimizing chances of a relapse.  

Physical Therapy After A Car Accident Supports Pain Management

Medications can only alleviate pain temporarily, and your body gradually becomes immune to the prescribed dose. That might cause you to become dependent on a high dose of painkillers that disrupt your health in other ways.

 If you’re looking for permanent relief, physical therapists can be a good alternative to medication. They recommend a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises to relax your muscles and support natural healing. Targeted exercises can gradually reduce swelling, stiffness, and pain experienced in the injured areas. The pain can subside completely and allow you to move without experiencing any discomfort with time.

Physical Therapy Can Improve Mental Health

Car accidents can often cause distress when you sustain debilitating injuries or lose someone special. Without proper care and positive stimuli, one can suffer from major depression. Due to this, you lose interest in activities you typically enjoy, feel demotivated and experience generalized fatigue.

Some patients might gain weight or struggle with body image issues due to scarring and visible signs of wounds. Likewise, people who observe a reduction in range of movement and muscle weakness may develop a fear of falling. These doubts prevent them from participating in physical activities and resuming a regular routine.

Research shows that physical therapy after an accident can boost mental health when incorporated with motivation strategies. As physical therapists, we ensure our patients feel encouraged and receive full support to help them return to normalcy. We treat mild to moderate movement issues through supplementary exercises.

A customized physical therapy program ensures that our prescribed workout regimes don’t force patients to overexert themselves. We also provide guided and supervised physical activity sessions to support their rehabilitation. Having a professional around for accountability and encouragement can persuade these patients to become active again. Once they observe a significant improvement in their movement, they cope better. These exercises are also a mindful way to focus on something good instead of reminiscing about what they lost.

Overall, there are multiple advantages of physical therapy after an automobile accident. The right program can prove beneficial for your physical and mental health. Additionally, you save money normally spent on pain medication and surgical treatments by patients who disregard the support physical therapists can offer after a traumatic incident.

FAQs: How Effective Is Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

Physical therapy can be highly effective for individuals involved in an automobile accident. Individualized therapy can promote the natural recovery process in affected areas by stabilizing target sites. They do this by strengthening weakened muscles and maximizing joint support. Consequently, you regain range of motion and reverse the debilitating effects of the injuries.

That said, the effectiveness of this treatment relies on consistency and how long you stay in the physical therapy program.

With that in mind, you’re probably wondering:

Physical Therapy After an Auto Accident
A physical therapist helping his patient.

Q. When Do I Start Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

The answer depends on the type of accident and injuries you sustained.

In most cases, you can visit a physical therapist one to three weeks after an accident, or maybe sooner. Early intervention can reduce the risk of chronic pain and mobility issues that develop weeks after an auto accident. Always consult your primary care provider if you are unsure about this decision. If you have not gone to the doctor and have no superficial injuries, only mild pain, then you should schedule a physical evaluation with us. Our experienced physical therapists shall diagnose your current condition to prescribe a suitable treatment plan.

Q. How Long Should You Go for Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

One should remember that your body requires consistent care and attention when it’s healing. Everyone has a different body type and therefore the timeline for treatment can vary from patient to patient. In addition to this, physical therapy isn’t a quick fix or shortcut treatment. Rushing through the sessions and exerting yourself can cause more harm than good.

Therefore, you should work on your progress patiently and allow your physical therapist to share a tentative timeline for your rehabilitation program.

Q. How Long Does It Take to Recover From an Automobile Accident?

On average, soft tissue injuries sustained after an automobile accident can take four to eight weeks to heal fully. Other injuries require extended physical therapy sessions to recover. Your age can affect the time required for recovery. Older people usually need more time compared to younger patients. That’s because the healing process decreases with age and you have to consider medical co-morbidities that can disrupt the recovery phase

At Specialized Physical Therapy, we observe your symptoms from initial consultation to the recovery phase. We adapt exercises and treatment according to your progress. Your therapist will eventually tell you when it’s time to stop therapy. Conversely, we might schedule follow-up appointments to ensure your healing continues and there’s no recurring pain when you return to normal activities.

Q. Should You Continue Your Home Exercises After Physical Therapy Visits End? 

Yes, stretching and strengthening exercises are recommended for daily use even if you complete your physical therapy treatment. These workout sessions are carefully designed to fit your body type, injuries and routine. Consider them a formula to lead a healthier and fully functional life.

Moreover, these exercises maintain your quality of life and limit regressive wear and tear of your body. That means as long as you keep moving the less likely you will experience a relapse. If you experience problems down the line or observe soreness in the affected areas, you can schedule a follow-up visit with your physical therapist. Our cooperative team will get you back on track by overcoming such setbacks.

Parting Words

Overall, physical therapy after a car accident can save you from painful and costly consequences. It can minimize the risks of surgical replacements and lifelong medication.  These treatments are equally effective in supporting your mental and emotional well-being as you gradually return to participate in activities you once loved.  They help enhance your quality of life after a traumatic incident and make it easier for you to adjust to changes that occur after the accident.

Whether your auto accident was recent or not, we recommend visiting an experienced physical therapist for a check-up at least once. Use their insights and expertise in biomechanics to take care of your body better and evade long-term pain from accident injuries.

Have more questions? Get in touch online or call us at (201) 773-8851 to learn more about physical therapy after an auto accident at Specialized Physical Therapy. Book an appointment to start your journey towards recovery and rehabilitation!