Car Accident Physical Therapy and Finding Relief

Joseph Rosi
May 26, 2023

Car accidents happen every day. Physical therapists work with car accident victims anywhere from immediately following an accident to over 20 years after. They provide techniques to decrease pain, recover from an injury, and improve function. Most car accidents result in an injury and many of them have symptoms you won’t notice until later.

The reality is that immediately following the accident, you may not notice if you’re injured. Your adrenaline will be pumping and you may be more concerned with how much this will cost you, or how you’ll get to work on time the rest of the week. Physical therapy is not only important for your recovery, but it can also help you to get the best compensation, return to work, and return to your hobbies.

What Do to if You Were a Victim in a Car Accident

Your priority should be protecting your health and well-being, then protecting your financial well-being

  • Pull over a safe distance from the road
  • Exchange insurance information
  • Gather witness statements, take pictures of the damaged vehicles, document traffic signals and recording weather conditions
  • Take an ambulance, drive to your medical doctor’s office, or have someone take you to the ER to rule out any serious fractures or brain damage
  • Contact your physical therapist after being cleared of any major issues that may require immediate medical attention
    • They will assess you for any pain
    • Provide gentle massage to decrease any pain or combat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) you may feel later
    • A physical therapist will help you decrease your pain after a car accident
  • Consult a lawyer for legal advice
  • Follow your doctors’ orders, that includes your Medical Doctor, your Doctor of Physical Therapy, and any other doctors that are ushering you through this recovery process
  • Report any injuries to your insurance company

Common Car Crash Injuries That Can Treated by Physical Therapy

  • Head Trauma
    • Concussion
    • Whiplash
    • Dizziness
    • Vertigo
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Headaches
  • Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Nerve Pain
  • Nerve Damage
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Whiplash
  • Fracture
  • Muscle tightness or spasms
  • Muscle or Tendon sprains
  • Ligament sprains/strains
    • Disc injuries
      • Herniated Disc
      • Disc bulge

The most common injury after a car accident is a soft-tissue injury, which includes muscle strain and ligament sprains. Most people are unaware that the outer layer of a disc is actually a ligament; therefore, if they have a disc injury, it is actually a ligamentous injury.

Injured man from car accident

How Long Does It Take To Recover After a Car Accident?

The time that it takes you to recover depends on your injuries.

It Also Depends on a Few Other Factors Such As:

  • How much effort you give your physical therapist during your treatment
  • The exercises included in your plan
  • Whether you choose continued care at home beyond formal treatments
  • If any other health conditions exist alongside this need for physical activity

A car accident injury and the resulting physical therapy can be a difficult time for many, which is why everyone wants to get better as soon as possible. We want that for you too! It’s important that you listen to your therapist when they give treatment recommendations so that you do not injure yourself further or worsen an existing condition.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After a Car Accident

The benefits of physical therapy after a car accident include decreasing pain, increasing range or motion and strength and ultimately, improving function to get back to the things you were doing prior to the accident.

Without a doubt, the greatest complaint people have following an accident is pain. Pain, however, is not always easily explained. There may be multiple contributing factors or referred pain involved. For example you could start to have sciatica pain, which may feel like leg pain, but it’s actually low back pain. This is known as referred pain, or pain that originates somewhere else.

Your physical therapist’s goal then is to see exactly what your pain-limiting factors are during the initial assessment and treat those accordingly. This can be done with joint manipulation, soft tissue manipulation, exercises, or even modalities.

Soft tissue and joint manipulations are the skilled passive movements done by a licensed physical therapist to aid in increasing mobility. This just so happens to be one of the ways to also decrease pain. Exercises are then used to work within that new range of motion to increase strength and endurance to make day to day tasks easier.

Once pain is no longer the greatest limiting factor, your therapist will focus on posture and correct body mechanics to help you get back to the things that you love.

Recovering From a Car Accident Starts at Home!

At Alinea Performance, we focus on taking the extra step to lay a path to recovery; so recovery is not just reserved for your PT visits!

Things You Can Do at Home To Recover Quicker From a Car Accident:

  • Eat well
  • Exercise regularly
    • Helps with the flexibility, strength, and endurance of muscles surrounding your car accident injuries
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Reduce stress
  • Stay away from alcohol/drugs, which slow down healing
  • Recover mentally from a car accident as well.

Doing all these paired with the instruction of your physical therapist will improve function more rapidly.  

Why It’s Important To Stay Active Throughout the Recovery Process

It’s important to stay active throughout the recovery process, even when not at physical therapy because studies show staying active with light exercise, such as walking, can speed up the recovery from most injuries. This is because exercise in any fashion can release endorphins that help your body relax! After a car accident tight muscles are a common cause of pain, so endorphins to help release this tension will help tremendously.

For all injuries, we recommend you follow PEACE & LOVE Guidelines!

How Long Should You Go to Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

After sustaining whiplash trauma from a car crash, most people will recover in about three to four months with proper care. However, if you have other health conditions alongside these injuries, like diabetes or arthritis, then recovery may take four to six months. All this depends on severity of these outside factors and how well you work with your doctors. As for soft tissue injuries, such as ligamentous injuries, they can take anywhere from 12 weeks to 52 weeks to recover from., or even up to two years. However, a fracture may only take a couple months.

The main difficulty with predicting the exact amount of time it will take for someone to recover after a car accident, is often these injuries are traumatic. What that means is that you will typically have multiple injuries that are being treated simultaneously. This may make recovery seem slow at times. Multiple injuries make getting back to normal difficult after an accident. You may try to heal one problem and inadvertently cause another.

The recommended length of episode of physical therapy will vary from person to person. Although injuries are clustered into diagnoses, not all injuries are truly the same. This is especially true for car accident victims because no two accidents are the same. The most important thing is that you get the physical therapy that you need to help you recover.

Car accident Whiplash injury

Things That Will Make Your Recovery Take Longer Than It Needs To

After a car accident, you might start seeing multiple doctors including the doctors from urgent care or the ER to pain management, a physical therapist, or even a chiropractor. It can be tough trying to keep up with so many providers, not to mention keeping up with everything each one has asked you to do. The worst thing you can do to keep yourself from getting better is NOT doing what they’ve asked you to do. The best part is, your providers will collaborate with each other to make sure you are getting the best possible care.

How to Find the Best Physical Therapist for You After Your Car Accident

Finding the best physical therapist for you can be challenging, especially if you don’t already have one. You will want to find a physical therapist that specifically works with car accidents and knows exactly how to treat the injuries that you have. This is especially important for speeding up your recovery time and opening claims for financial compensation after a car accident. Your physical therapist can make or break your case so you need someone with experience navigating these claims. This may mean getting a recommendation from another healthcare provider or a referral from your lawyer if you have one.

If you get a referral from a provider to a particular therapist, that doesn’t mean you have to see that provider. Your provider should be a good fit for your personality, schedule, and lifestyle.

Dr. Mills doing a lumbar manipulation


In our experience car accidents are often traumatic experiences that not only cause injury but also lead to emotional distress or anxiety about future car trips. Working through these feelings in conjunction with addressing car-related physical limitations can be valuable for car accident sufferers. For that reason, we provide concierge services where we bring outpatient physical therapy directly to you. Our patients have been especially grateful for this when they were unable to drive or had a fear of getting back into a car. In addition, it saves you time from having to travel to a busy clinic. Call today and we will set up a complimentary consultation so we can give you guidance during this difficult time.

About Alinea Performance

We offer outpatient physical therapy for sports medicine, lower back pain, stretches for sciatica, hip labral tears, arthritis, male pelvic health and men’s pelvic pain. We can also help you find a MVA attorney to help you claim a settlement for a car accident. For the best physical therapy near you, click the button below to call Alinea Performance. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and eliminate your pain, regardless of how long it’s limited you.

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