Can Physical Therapy After a Car Accident Help Me Get Well?

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Over 6 million auto accidents occur in the United States every year. Injuries caused by these accidents are common and often cause confusion and chaos in the lives of the injured. Dealing with the aftermath of the damage, like the pain and rehabilitation required to feel back to normal, and can be challenging.

Although it may be a tough time requiring a lot of research and appointments, it is essential to seek the medical attention you need to return to your normal activities and prevent additional problems from occurring.

Physical therapy is a resource for individuals that have experienced an injury from an auto accident and can provide a multitude of treatments as well as work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals to assist in your recovery.

Many people ask, “Can Physical Therapy After a Car Accident Help Me Get Well?” read on to find out how it can help you get back on the road to recovery.

Common Auto Accident Injuries

Auto accidents frequently produce common types of injuries that occur due to the kind of car collision. Some of these common injuries include whiplash, concussion, crush injuries, and broken bones.

Whiplash can develop when vigorous, quick movements of the neck occur, generally moving back and forth. This motion can potentially stretch the ligaments in your neck and strain the surrounding muscles. These types include driving off the road and rear-ending another vehicle at 30 miles per hour or less.

Concussions can result from rolling over or driving off the road, head-on collisions, and getting hit from the side. Concussions sometimes occur in concurrence with whiplash and can also result in a neck injury that can be treated by physical therapy.

Broken bones of the limbs can result in a T-bone accident. Also, T-bone accidents can cause damage to bones of the legs and the skull.

Physical therapy will treat patients that require “conservative” treatment instead of surgery during bone healing or post-surgical treatment to improve motion and strength.

Treatments offered by Physical Therapy

A variety of treatments can be provided by a physical therapist to assist with an auto accident injury. These treatments are provided to relieve and manage pain, increase strength and stability, improve motion, and overall function to return to your previous lifestyle.

Manual Therapy

Physical therapists offer manual therapy, hands-on treatment by the therapist, to relieve and manage pain, decrease muscle tension, and increase motion at the joint to get back to normal movement. Manual therapy can be in the form of soft tissue massage, trigger point release, joint mobility, and more.

Soft tissue massage is used to relieve pain in the muscle, tendons, and ligaments. Similarly, trigger point release is used to relieve tension in the area of the muscle.

Joint mobility is used to reduce pain in the region as well as improve motion at the joint to provide the ability to do necessary activities such as climbing stairs and squatting to the floor.

Physical Therapy Modalities

Physical therapy treatment can include the use of therapeutic modalities to alleviate pain and control inflammation. Common types of modalities that physical therapists use are electrical stimulation, ultrasound, moist heat packs, and ice packs.

Electrical stimulation – referred to as E-Stim, consists of electrodes that are placed on the skin and generate light stimulation that interrupts pain signals to the brain. E-Stim is commonly used to reduce pain in a region of the body, such as the low back, to be able to accomplish day to day activities.

Ultrasound as a modality is used to reduce inflammation, such as with sprains or strains. With the use of sound waves, ultrasound machines can help control swelling in the injured area and assist in the decrease in pain. Ice and heat can be used in combination with these listed modalities.

Moist heat packs are used to help control pain and used in injuries that have occurred several months prior.

In contrast, ice packs are used with injuries that have occurred within the past weeks to a month and help reduce inflammation.

Retraining and Reactivating muscles

Often together with modalities and pain-relieving activities, physical therapists will educate on exercises and activities that will assist in enhancing function. In cases like whiplash, the intense movement at the neck can cause dysfunction in the muscles in this area.

Physical therapists are trained to recognize these dysfunctions and provide ways to increase the activation of the muscles. They will also help determine if retraining muscles is necessary, which often happens at the neck and low back. This occurs after injury when your brain to muscle connection needs to be improved to function at the level.

Developing activation and strength in the muscles surrounding the injury can provide support and help alleviate pain in the region, especially when combined with modalities.

Working in Other Medical Specialists

When physical therapy is suggested to treat an injury that has occurred from an auto accident, most situations require multiple specialists to be involved in the care.

Orthopedist: If anything happened to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones, an orthopedic doctor would assist in the care of the injury. Conservative treatment might require the orthopedic doctor to refer the individual to physical therapy; however, if they feel surgical treatment would be beneficial, physical therapy may be suggested after the surgical procedure.

Neurologist: When nerve damage occurs from an auto injury, the patient may work in conjunction with a neurologist that specializes in car accident nerve-related injuries.

Pain Management: Not only does the pain occur from the initial injury, often chronic pain will develop over time especially with the neck and the low back. Pain management addresses the ongoing pain and provides treatment in combination with physical therapy.

Chiropractor: Additionally, the individual may also seek treatment from a chiropractor, who is a specialist that treats with manual adjustments and manipulations, also works in conjunction with other disciplines to provide the best outcome.

The damage that has occurred to the body due to an auto accident injury will determine what specialists would be most beneficial to see, and primary care physicians or medical doctors in the emergency room will be able to determine what specialists may be necessary for the recovery process.

Can Physical Therapy After a Car Accident Help Me Get Well?

If you’ve experienced an injury due to an auto accident, it may be a challenging time dealing with the pain and loss of function that may come along with this situation. There are tons of decisions to make, and it can become confusing due to the resources available.

The answer to the question “Can Physical Therapy After a Car Accident Help Me Get Well?” is “Yes, Physical therapy treatment can be an excellent option for recovery after an auto accident.”

Treatments can include an array of modalities and hands-on therapy to reduce pain, assist in learning to manage pain, and activities to improve the function of the body so that you can return to your normal day to day activities.

Physical therapists work with the patient as well as any other specialists that are involved in the care of this injury. It is not uncommon for individuals to seek multi-specialty treatment options from a physical therapist, orthopedist, neurologist, pain management physician, and chiropractor.

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