Car accidents are an inevitable fact of life on U.S. roadways. In 2019, there were 6,756,000 police-reported accidents, breaking down into a daily average of more than 18,500. A total of 2.74 million people sustained injuries in those accidents.
Getting in an accident can be a traumatic experience, made even more difficult when you get hurt. You confront challenges on multiple fronts, from dealing with insurance companies to missed time at work, not to mention trying to restore your physical and mental health. When your injuries are serious, the road to recovery is often long and painful. Physical therapy after a car accident often speeds up healing and returns strength and mobility so you can get back to your life.
The Basics of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is an active therapeutic approach to improving musculoskeletal conditions. Your musculoskeletal system consists of your muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, and bones, all of which help you move about in your daily activities. We often take this system for granted until we get hurt, and then we realize just how vital this structure is.
Different components of this system are interdependent, and when you damage one part, it impacts interconnected parts. Often, this makes it hard to know what the injury is without a professional diagnosis. The only thing you might know is that you are in a lot of pain, and you can’t function as you usually do.
Comprehensive Healthcare Group’s professional physical therapists (PTs) get to the root of your injuries to repair the damages and restore functionality. When the damage is severe or permanent, physical therapy can help you relearn how to navigate your life.
Therapists utilize a combination of techniques to increase strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, and mobility, including:
- Manual manipulation: This approach involves hands-on therapeutic techniques. Your physical therapist manually manipulates joints and soft tissues to reduce pain and stress at the injury location and in surrounding areas. Manual manipulation includes massages.
- Physical therapy exercises: Your PT may work with you at the auto accident injury clinic to perform specific exercises designed to improve physical functioning. Some of these exercises may involve using special exercise equipment, but others only require your own body movements.
- Kinesio Taping® method: This method provides additional support when you have muscle damage. It helps reduce pain and inflammation while allowing you to continue using your muscles.
When you suffer injuries from a car crash, you may benefit from physical therapy after a car accident. You may work with a therapist at a clinic, and your PT may also provide you with exercises to do at home.
Benefits of Physical Therapy After Car Accident
Physical therapy is often the key to restoring your body to full function after a car accident. With more severe injuries, you may require PT to learn to use your body in different ways without increasing your pain or risking permanent damage. Though some injuries are apparent immediately after a car crash, it can take up to several days for you to notice others.
When you have a car accident, rapid recovery may depend on getting medical attention right away. With professional physical therapy, the therapist utilizes diagnostic tools to identify your injuries before designing a treatment plan that addresses your physical issues. Physical therapy provides five primary benefits for car accident victims.
1. Supports Healing
PT works with and improves your body’s natural healing processes. A trained therapist identifies the damage and determines how to support and encourage the healing process. Manual manipulation and exercises help you increase your strength, range of motion, flexibility, and balance.
However, if you attempt to undergo these activities on your own, you risk aggravating your injuries rather than healing them, and it may cause more damage. A PT has the knowledge and skills needed to treat your injuries and restore your physical health.
2. Reduces Pain
Car accident injuries often cause a great deal of chronic pain. When you have a high level of pain, it interferes with nearly every aspect of your life. It can lead to sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and irritability. It can make it hard for you to focus on daily tasks or concentrate at work.
The staff at Comprehensive Healthcare Group’s auto accident injury clinic recognize how much pain car accident victims endure. Your PT provides therapeutic treatments to help you with effective pain management. When you aren’t in as much pain, it is easier for you to engage in the stretches and exercises that stimulate blood flow to the injured area and encourage healing.
3. Prevents Long-Term Damage
Physical therapy after a car accident may prevent long-term damage. Chronic headaches, migraines, and pain are common for those who sustain injuries in an accident and don’t get immediate medical attention.
Through specialized treatment, physical therapy reduces the risk of experiencing these debilitating conditions. Additionally, when you learn how to move and use your body correctly while injured, it lowers the chances that you engage in activities or move in ways that cause more harm.
4. Prevents Surgery
Though sometimes surgery is unavoidable after a car accident, physical therapy may prevent the need for surgery for many types of injuries. When you have damage that doesn’t heal properly, it can lead to complications that require surgery later in life. Injuries to joints, tendons, and ligaments often don’t heal well on their own, leaving you with weakened joints prone to further damage.
Over time, your body’s natural aging process exacerbates these conditions, and you may need surgery to repair the cumulative damages. Professional physical therapy may help you avoid surgery due to complications from your injuries.
5. Restores Functioning
Many common auto accident injuries leave you with impaired functioning when left untreated. If you sustained injuries in a car crash in the past and did not get treatment for them, getting physical therapy now may help restore functioning. PT exercises and manual manipulation may provide you with the help your body needs to improve flexibility and strength while reducing pain and increasing functionality.
Physical Therapy for Common Car Accident Injuries
Musculoskeletal injuries are widespread after car accidents. They range in severity and can last for weeks or months. When you don’t get treatment for them, they can turn into chronic issues, reducing your quality of life for the rest of your life. You may experience immediate symptoms, or they may not show up for days or weeks.
Getting physical therapy after a car accident can help you identify your injuries and start you down the road to recovery. Some common car accident injuries that we treat at Comprehensive Healthcare Group’s auto accident injury clinic include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Lower back pain
PT addresses injuries, helps you manage your pain, and stimulates the recovery process when you sustain musculoskeletal damage in a car crash.
Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents, accounting for approximately 29% of all crashes every year. People who get hit from behind often end up with whiplash. This type of injury also occurs when one vehicle strikes the front end of another. As many as 3 million people suffer from whiplash every year. Whiplash injuries involve damage to the soft tissues in the neck. It can be excruciating and takes time to heal.
Whiplash symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, nausea, dizziness, inability to concentrate, and numbness in the neck, upper back, and arms. Professional physical therapy can reduce pain, stimulate blood flow, and improve range of motion. Your PT may utilize several therapies to treat the injury. Manual manipulation and massages are especially beneficial in the acute stages, while stretching and exercises are helpful as the injury heals.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to any damage your brain sustains. Car accident victims get these injuries either from a direct hit to the head or from rapid head movement (the same kind of movement that causes whiplash). TBIs range in severity from mild to life-threatening. In 2018, traumatic brain injuries sent approximately 223,050 people to the hospital.
Often, injuries to the brain result in central nervous system inflammation and damage. Physical therapy seeks to restore the link between the brain’s central nervous system (CNS) components and the rest of the body. Your CNS’s neuroplasticity makes retraining through PT possible. Physical therapy after a car accident helps central nervous system functioning and healing.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Approximately 46% of physical therapy patients seek treatment for relief from spinal pain and injuries. The jarring motions of a car accident often result in spinal cord injuries, and car accidents are the leading cause of these injuries. You may have damage anywhere along the spinal column. Car accidents can cause herniated or compressed discs, pinched and inflamed nerves, and damaged ligaments and tendons.
Physical therapy encourages blood flow to the injured spinal region. It also helps to reduce pain and inflammation. When injuries involve the nerves, PT can improve nerve functioning. Patients at Comprehensive Healthcare Group’s auto accident injury clinic receive treatment that focuses on symptom relief and healing through hands-on therapies. As the injuries improve, the PT works with the patient to restore balance, flexibility, range of motion, and strength.
Bone fractures in the hips, legs, arms, and hands are common car crash injuries. Bone fractures range in severity from hairline fractures to shattered bones. Hairline fractures often don’t require a cast or surgery, though they may require some other form of immobilization, such as a brace or sling. Broken bones can take anywhere from four weeks to five months to heal, depending on the location and severity of the break.
After receiving initial medical treatment for your break, you may benefit from physical therapy treatment and exercises. If you have a cast or brace, PT can help you learn how to adjust your movements to accommodate the device without increasing your pain or prolonging healing. Once your bone heals, professional physical therapy enables you to regain muscle strength, movement, and functionality.
Lower Back Pain
Even those who are in a minor fender-bender may suffer from lower back pain due to sprains or strains. Both injuries occur in the soft tissues, and physical therapy after a car accident may speed up your recovery and ease your pain. A stretched or torn ligament is a sprain, while a stretched or torn muscle or tendon is a strain. Sprains and strains can be painful and cause significant swelling and stiffness in the affected area. When the injury is in your lower back, you may have difficulty remaining in any position for long.
A physical therapist develops a treatment plan that addresses both the pain and the damage. Physical therapy can also reduce the muscle spasms that frequently accompany lower back injuries. The therapist often utilizes manual manipulation, including massages, along with stretching exercises to improve blood flow and reduce pain and inflammation. As the injury starts to heal, the PT often incorporates strengthening and range of motion exercises.
How Long Does Physical Therapy After Car Accident Last?
Many patients who come to the Comprehensive Healthcare Group’s auto accident injury clinic want to know how long their physical therapy treatments will last.
Generally speaking, treatment length depends on three factors:
- Injury type: The type of injury you have and its location impact recovery and rehabilitation length and, thus, how long PT treatment lasts.
- Injury severity: As you would expect, the more severe the injury, the longer you may need physical therapy treatment.
- Overall physical condition: Your overall physical health plays a role in your recovery and rehabilitation. Age and fitness also contribute to how long you need physical therapy after a car accident.
Every individual has a unique set of circumstances and varying factors that contribute to how long recovery takes. For some, it may take a few weeks, while others may require physical therapy for years.
Professional Physical Therapy Services
If you sustained injuries in a car accident, Comprehensive Healthcare Group is here to help. We offer physical therapy after a car accident for clients in Oceanside and Valley Stream, NY. We accept no-fault insurance, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), workers’ compensation, and other heal insurance plans. Contact us today to discover the difference our multi-disciplinary approach makes to your health and wellness.