Motor Vehicle 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 when there is abrupt deceleration resulting in a severe jerk to the head and neck. In a car accident, your body can move in unnatural and unexpected ways which can injure your muscles, nerves and other soft tissues. Along with whiplash; strains, sprains and fractures are also common injuries. All of these injuries respond very well to skilled physical therapy.

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 physical therapy 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
  • Head aches

A more visible sign of whiplash, tissue and/or nerve damage is bruising. If you suffer from any one of these issues following a car accident, you should seek medical attention 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

During your first appointment at Elko Spine Physical Therapy, your therapist makes a therapy diagnosis explaining what precisely is going on. Then your treatment will begin with interventions to help control your pain, swelling and help your muscles relax.

Exercise will be necessary once your pain and swelling have improved, but you should begin slowly. Movements should be gentle and focused on recovering mobility and range of motion. Strength activities will be added as injured tissues have healed. You will be taught exercises that will be performed regularly and 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 very stiff, making it more difficult to regain flexibility.

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

Let us assist you on your road to recovery

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