The Importance of Physical Therapy After a Car Accident

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there have been over 6 million car accidents in the United States per year for the past five years. While some accidents incur property damage only, unfortunately, almost one-third of these accidents injure someone. When overcoming the trauma of a car accident, physical therapy can be instrumental in a patient’s path to healing.


Ability to Get Back to Normal

A study published in Medicine (Baltimore) showed that a 4-week inpatient interdisciplinary program of physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, and strength/endurance training helped car accident victims in many areas of life in the months that followed. The patients were able to increase their working hours from 0 at the onset of the injury to 21 hours a week after 6 months and 30 hours a week after 60 months. These patients were also less likely to “catastrophize” and ranked themselves lower on the pain scale.


Whiplash injury

Addressing “Invisible” Injuries

Of the injury-causing collisions that happened in the US during the last year data was available, 31.4% were rear-ending crashes. These types of crashes are notorious for causing whiplash, which is an injury to the soft tissue of the neck typically caused by a sudden overextension. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, whiplash symptoms can occur immediately after the trauma, or they can set in many days later. For this reason, many car accident victims have “invisible” injuries. They might look healthy and well to the people around them and even to themselves for a few days. Physical therapy can help address the underlying issues that might not be obvious to the onlooker. Range of motion exercises through a therapy program can help address stiffness and prevent chronic headaches and neck pain.


Preventing Chronic/Long-Term Pain

Physical therapy can prevent long term pain later on. A study out of Japan showed that a physical therapy program given to Whiplash Affective Disorder patients with indefinite pain reduced their symptoms by 80 percent. On average, they initially reported 13.1 symptoms, which decreased to only two at discharge.



Lessening the Need for Certain Surgeries

The need for certain surgeries to address lower back pain can be eliminated with physical therapy. While spinal stenosis is not usually caused by trauma, something like a car accident can make underlying cases come to light. A study conducted by Harvard followed a group of patients who underwent physical therapy for their low back pain and a group who underwent surgery. Two years after the beginning of therapy or surgery, both groups had made equal progress in pain and physical function.


Reducing Need for Pain Medication

Physical therapy can help minimize necessary dosages of pain medication. In a study conducted on pain management in trauma, researchers found that a routine of physical therapy could reduce a patient’s need for opioids. Since most injured car accident victims have to take medication of some kind, physical therapy could play a huge role in preventing reliance/addiction to these medications.

If you are looking for non-invasive treatment for your car accident injury, please contact us. We are located in Everett, near Lynnwood, Marysville and Mill Creek.



Ahmadi, A., Bazargan-Hejazi, S., Heidari Zadie, Z., Euasobhon, P., Ketumarn, P., Karbasfrushan, A., Amini-Saman, J., & Mohammadi, R. (2016). Pain management in trauma: A review study. Journal of injury & violence research, 8(2), 89–98.


Haiduk, P., Benz, T., Lehmann, S., Gysi-Klaus, F., Aeschlimann, A., Michel, B. A., & Angst, F. (2017). Interdisciplinary rehabilitation after whiplash injury: An observational prospective 5 years outcome study. Medicine, 96(9), e6113.

Matsui, T., Iwata, M., Endo, Y. et al. Effect of intensive inpatient physical therapy on whole-body indefinite symptoms in patients with whiplash-associated disorders. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 251 (2019).


Howard, L., M.D. (2020, June 17). Physical therapy as good as surgery and less risky for one type of lower back pain. Retrieved December 04, 2020, from


National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. (2018). National Statistics. Retrieved December 04, 2020, from


Whiplash Information Page. (2019, March 27). Retrieved December 04, 2020, from



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