Regain Your Independence: Why You Should Follow Up With Physical Therapy After Car Accident Injury
There are approximately 280 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. When it comes to traffic, the U.S. is one of the busiest countries. In 2019 alone, there were over 12 million vehicles involved in collisions.
Motor vehicle accident victims face a variety of injuries. Many must undergo physical therapy after a car accident to feel better and regain independence. In many cases, your physical therapy costs may be covered under insurance claims or personal injury settlements after an auto accident.
What To Know About Physical Therapy
Before you dive into the benefits of physical therapy, it helps to understand the goal of physical therapists. Physical therapists (PTs) are medical professionals who obtain a master’s or doctorate to practice their craft. Following the licensing exam, they have permission to practice.
The job of PTs is to examine your condition and create a treatment plan based on your injuries to help you obtain mobility or independence. Physical therapists may help throughout various legs of a patient’s recovery process. For example, they can help prevent further injury, rehabilitate a patient, or treat various injuries ranging in severity.
PT is not invasive and professionals may work as a part of your overall treatment team. Physical therapists can work in hospitals, inpatient centers, nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, fitness centers, etc.
What To Know About Physical Therapy Treatment After a Car Accident
In 2020, medical professionals witnessed about 4.8 million injuries after car accidents. A motor vehicle collision can leave you with lasting injuries even at low speeds. For instance, fender benders are among the most common types of accidents to cause whiplash. Serious injuries can limit your ability to move independently or carry out daily activities.
Understanding the Types of Car Accident Injuries
Recovering after an accident can feel like a long road. Directly following the collision, you may feel unsure of the benefits to your recovery physical therapy offers. PT addresses a wide range of injuries, pain symptoms, and other limitations, even for old car accident injuries that still cause problems. It’s important to see the doctor right away after a car wreck as there can be hidden injuries.
Your spine houses nerves that control many of your bodily functions. The spine itself includes various vertebrae and small discs. The small components that work together to make up your spine also make your back more prone to injury during an accident.
One of the most common injuries following an accident is a back strain. While back strains may be among the more mild injuries, their pain can also be severe. Strained back muscles can make it challenging to perform basic physical activities.
A herniated disk occurs when the center becomes pushed outward, forcing the disk to stretch open. Herniated disks can cause pain throughout your body. The spine connects to your nervous system, so it is common for herniated disks to present with leg pain or discomfort traveling to other areas of the body.
One of the primary purposes of airbags is to protect your head during a collision. However, the impact itself can cause your brain’s soft tissue to slam into your skull. Even if you don’t experience any symptoms following the accident, you could still suffer from a brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are the second most common injury, following whiplash.
The most common types of TBI include:
Diffuse axonal occurs if the brain structure tears during rotation. For example, if your head whips to one side during an accident. Coup-contrecoup is also possible. Essentially coup-contrecoup occurs when your brain rebounds off the front and back of the skull, leaving damage in both places.
Whiplash is a common car accident injury, but other neck injuries include fractures, muscle strains, inflammation, herniated disks, cervical dislocation, and spinal cord injuries.
After suffering a neck injury during a car accident, many patients still have pain after a year following the injury. For patients with whiplash, resting the muscles is critical directly following the accident. However, if you do not receive physical therapy, your muscles may atrophy and make you more prone to pain.
Learning the Benefits of Physical Therapy
Most people don’t want to waste their time with treatment methods that yield no results. For many car accident victims, there are various benefits of physical therapy.
Efficient Healing and Recovery
Most patients want to heal as fast as possible after a car accident. They want to return to their everyday lives. Patients rely on the faster recovery physical therapy offers them. If you try to push yourself too hard without the instruction of a PT, you are more likely to injure yourself. Compounding injuries can slow down your healing time or leave you with a higher chance of chronic pain that lasts for years or the rest of your life.
When you work under the guidance of your physical therapist, you have more of a chance of getting better and less of a chance of making your injuries worse. In addition, strength exercises promote healing in the injured area. As you increase your range of motion, you will feel more capable of doing more with your body.
Further Pain or Injury Prevention
Pain after an accident can linger for months and years, depending on the severity. Without proper healing, injuries can linger longer or lead to chronic problems. You and your physical therapist can work together to find the most painful areas and determine the right moves to help you resume a pain-free life.
Many patients who are regularly attending physical therapy can avoid using long-term pain medication. Often, pain medication has its share of side effects, including dependence on the drug. Other side effects include drowsiness, problems with balance and other physical complications that may interfere with your healing progress.
Increased Mobility and Independence
If you have a neck injury, physical therapists may focus on stretching exercises to help you gain control of your movement again. Physical therapy can help increase your strength and balance after a car crash.
For patients who suffer from TBIs, physical therapists can help them attempt to relearn daily tasks to restore their independence and mobility. Some therapies include hands-on care, education and prescribed motion. Traumatic brain injuries can lead to various mental and physical problems. If you lose balance or motor skills due to your TBI, you may require physical therapy.
Physical therapy improves your abilities overall. When you have to stretch and exercise each day, you should find better balance and feel more comfortable in your daily life. When you have more control of your physical body, you can feel more in control of your overall life. It gives you physical independence, but it can improve your mental health as a bonus.
Expectations During a Physical Therapy Appointment
Before your first physical therapy appointment, you may have reservations. Physical therapy may be able to help you achieve long-term results. Many patients go through PT to avoid surgery or long-term pain regimens.
During your initial visit with a PT, he or she will assess your current condition. Your physical therapist may ask you questions about your medical history, your current abilities and take measurements to paint a picture of your impairments. Physical therapists often measure your strength, flexibility, joint mobility, range of motion, neurological function and overall functional mobility.
After the examination, your PT can work with you to create a treatment plan customized to your specific needs. During the initial appointment, you will also have the opportunity to explain your personal goals and discuss what you hope to gain from the therapy sessions.
Physical therapy after a car accident depends on the type of injury. Physical therapists use various techniques to improve mobility, strength and motion. Different methods can also address stiffness and pain.
One of the foundations of PT is exercise. Your medical provider will guide you through different activities or stretches to improve your mobility. Some PTs may use fitness equipment in addition to stretches you can perform on your own or with assistance. The physical therapist monitors all of the exercises you do within your session. Most PTs will also give you at-home exercises to improve your healing speed. These are exercises you can do in between visits to your physical therapist.
Your plan may also include soft tissue and joint massages. The massages promote blood flow and help relieve pain. In addition, your PT may move your joints and muscles to increase your range of motion.
Therapeutic modalities are extra tools that PTs have in their arsenal. Your PT can use different techniques to reduce swelling, manage pain, improve blood flow and increase relaxation. Some of the modalities used include:
- Electrical stimulation
- Dry needling
- Laser treatment
Before any treatment, your therapist will discuss the ins and outs of recovery physical therapy can provide. He or she will discuss individual options and guide you through the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Reclaim Your Life and Schedule Physical Therapy Today
Following a car accident, your injuries can restrict your independence. Working through physical therapy after a car accident may alter the course of your life for the better. After suffering blunt force trauma of common accident injury it’s important to find doctors and physical therapy clinics that accept no-fault insurance, PIP (personal injury protection), workers’ compensation, and other insurance plans.