Car Accident Physical Therapy: What to Expect

Even if you’ve never had the misfortune to experience a car accident, you have heard the term “whiplash”.

This is the most common injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by a severe jerk to the head. In a car accident, your body can move in unnatural and unexpected ways which affect your muscles and nerves. Along with whiplash, strains, sprains and fractures are also common and curable results of auto accidents.

Many clients who are in accidents will not feel severe pain or stiffness until 7-10 days after the accident takes place—but this doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist. If you are in an accident, seek physiotherapy immediately even if your injuries are not immediately apparent.


Any time you’ve seen an image or a video of a car accident, you see the driver and passengers being jolted forward—their necks snapping forward and/or backward in a violent motion. This force causes damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck.

While you might feel the results of whiplash immediately, it is common to only notice it a few days after the accident. Symptoms include:

  • Stiffness and pain in the neck
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness and blurred vision
  • Lower back or shoulder pain
  • Possible numbness in the arm or hand
  • Concentration issues and sleeplessness

A more visible sign of whiplash or general nerve damage is bruising. If you suffer from any one of these issues following a car accident, you should get to a clinic immediately. These injuries can get much worse, and disrupt your day-to-day life, right down to how well you sleep at night.

The Successful Treatment of Whiplash

After your first appointment at One To One Physical Therapy, where your therapist makes a diagnosis of what precisely you are suffering from, your treatment will begin with a very basic heat and ice treatment. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or muscle relaxants may be prescribed, but medication is never our first answer.

Exercise will be necessary, but you should begin slowly due to the initial pain you will inevitably experience doing so. Movements should be gentle and focused on recovering mobility and range of motion. Strength will be rebuilt through daily repetition of the techniques assigned for you to practice at home.

The key to recovery is patience and repetition. Depending on the severity of your injuries, and the length of time between the accident and your first physical therapy appointment, the process could be lengthier than you would like.

Resting the neck too much after an accident where you experienced whiplash allows the muscles to become weak and stiff, making it more difficult to regain flexibility. Upon completion of your diagnosis, should you have whiplash, it will be graded on a scale to determine the amount of work required.

To increase your chances of a swift recovery, allow your therapist to educate you on the healing process, follow your at-home recovery guide and stay optimistic. Your energy and willingness to get back on track is what will get you through to the other side.

Let us assist you on your road to recovery

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