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Andrew Traub
|Medicine

5 Reasons To Attend Physical Therapy After a Car Accident

According to the National Safety Council, there were nearly 4.8 million car accidents resulting in injury in the United States in 2020 (1). As we progress through and past COVID-19, with more travel and less working from home, that number is almost sure to rise for 2021. Injuries after car accidents can vary widely from acute muscle soreness to concussions, or whiplash to chronic neck or back pain with radiculopathy and a plethora of other ailments.

Indeed car accidents can result in a multitude of injuries, but for the best recovery, it is vital to be evaluated by a physical therapist.

PT Aids in the Recovery Process

Physical therapy includes a thorough evaluation and diagnoses of injury before beginning treatment in order to formulate the best possible plan for each patient’s care. In most instances, patients require education regarding the symptoms they will feel during the recovery process, which may take weeks to months or even be a permanent injury.

The goals of patients’ recovery can include the following:

  • Improved range of motion
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved balance/proprioception
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved strength
  • Improved sensation
  • Normalize gait

Avoid Long-Term Damage

Car accidents can have long-term effects that can linger with patients. Beginning physical therapy treatment immediately after an injury can greatly decrease the physical and psychosocial effects that plague patients, as well as decrease the number of visits a patient needs to achieve recovery. The sooner the patient seeks physical therapy treatment, the sooner an active approach to their recovery can be taken, and sooner the patient can continue with their normal daily lives.

Physical therapy can also help reduce risk of secondary injury such as falls, tears, and strains, by evaluating the risk for such events and addressing them.

Reduce Pain

With the ever-growing opioid epidemic, pain medication, and reliance on pain medication are genuine concerns for many patients after sustaining injuries from a car accident. Physical therapists do not prescribe medications and seek to avoid unnecessary use of pain medications.

Gain Mobility

One of the last things a patient might want to do when they are in pain is to move. Avoiding movement is a natural response to pain, but one that must be gently worked through in order to regain tissue and joint mobility. Gentle mobility also helps to reduce pain by increasing blood perfusion bringing nutrients to the healing tissues.

Avoid Surgery

Though serious injury after a car accident may require surgery, in many cases physical therapy can help avoid surgery for many patients with spinal injuries, radicular symptoms, ligamentous and soft tissue injuries such as meniscal and rotator cuff tears, and joint injuries. In cases where surgery in necessary, physical therapists may provide “pre-hab” and rehab to get patients in better condition to undergo and to cover from their surgery by strengthening tissues and gaining mobility. In some cases, surgery becomes unnecessary due to the progress made in physical therapy.

Physical therapists are movement and recovery experts. PTs work to develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient after a car accident. Therapists identify and treat specific structures that have been injured, and work to achieve recovery and the patients’ unique treatment goals, including avoiding long-term problems, decreasing pain, improving mobility and avoiding surgery when possible.

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