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July Blog Physical Therapy after an accident

How To Get Physical Therapy After An Accident

Are you ready to get back on your feet after an accident? Physical therapy can help you regain your strength and mobility. Whether you’ve been involved in a car crash, suffered a sports injury, or experienced a workplace accident, proper rehabilitation can help ensure a complete recovery.

If you don’t know how to get physical therapy after an accident, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll talk about the steps to finding the best physical therapist for your situation, along with the different expectations you should have for your sessions and more.

How To Find The Right Physical Therapist For Your Needs

Finding the right physical therapist is crucial for a successful recovery after an accident. Here are some steps to help you find a qualified professional who meets your needs:

  1. Ask for Referrals – A referral from your doctor is usually the first step in getting PT after an accident. Start by asking your healthcare provider, friends, or family for recommendations. They may have firsthand experience with or know someone who has undergone physical therapy after an accident. 
  1. Check Credentials – Ensure that the physical therapist you choose is licensed and has the necessary certifications. You can verify this information through state licensing boards or professional organizations.
  1. Experience and Specialization – Inquire about the therapist's experience and specialization. Look for someone who has experience treating patients with injuries similar to yours. If you sustain injury from a sport-related accident, finding a PT with a specialization in orthopedics or sports rehabilitation can be beneficial.
  1. Comfort and Rapport – You should feel comfortable with your physical therapist, as you will work closely with them throughout your recovery. Schedule an initial consultation or phone call to assess their communication style and determine if you feel at ease with them.
  1. Insurance Coverage – Check if the physical therapist accepts your insurance and what portion of the treatment costs will be covered. Look into your insurance coverage and potential out-of-pocket expenses to avoid any surprises later. If you were in a car accident, your insurance company might be able to cover a bulk of the expenses.

Finding the right physical therapist may require some research and consideration, but it is worth the effort. A good therapist can make a significant difference in your recovery journey.

What Should I Expect From The Initial Assessment?

The first session with your physical therapist will typically involve an initial assessment and goal setting. This assessment helps the therapist understand your condition, identify any limitations or challenges, and develop a personalized treatment plan.

During the initial assessment, your physical therapist will:

  1. Review Medical History – This includes any previous injuries, surgeries, or medical conditions that may affect your rehabilitation.
  1. Perform Physical Evaluation – The therapist will assess your range of motion, strength, flexibility, balance, and any other relevant physical factors related to your injury.
  1. Discuss Symptoms – Talk about your symptoms, pain levels, and any functional limitations you are experiencing to help the therapist determine the appropriate interventions.

Based on the assessment, your physical therapist will collaborate with you to set realistic and measurable goals for your rehabilitation. Goal setting is an essential aspect of physical therapy, as it provides a clear direction for the treatment plan and allows you to track your progress throughout the recovery process.


Common Injuries That May Require Physical Therapy 

You can benefit from physical therapy if you suffer from any of the following injuries:


This is an injury to the neck caused by a sudden, forceful back-and-forth movement. It's most commonly associated with rear-end car accidents, but it can also happen from falls or sports injuries. Whiplash can cause the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck to become strained, torn, or inflamed. Physical therapy can improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and gradually increase your range of motion.


A fracture, which is also called a broken bone, happens when a bone is hit with enough force to break it. This force can come from a fall, a blow from a hard object, or a car accident. While casts and braces help with bone healing, they can also cause surrounding muscles to weaken. Physical therapy can progressively strengthen the muscles that support the bone and improve flexibility in the surrounding joints. 

Sprains and Strains

Many people are not aware of the difference between a sprain and a strain. Sprains occur when a ligament is stretched or torn, usually as a result of a twisting motion. On the other hand, strains occur when a muscle or tendon is overstretched or torn. Overuse or excessive exertion are the usual reasons behind it. Nonetheless, sprains and strains can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and a limited range of motion. Physical therapy exercises can improve blood flow and reduce inflammation. They can also improve stability and restore full movement to the affected joint or muscle.

Back and Spinal Injuries

Back and spinal injuries are a broad category encompassing various issues that affect the muscles, ligaments, bones, discs, and nerves of the back and spine. These injuries can range from minor aches and strains to more serious conditions like fractures, herniated discs, and spinal cord injuries. Physical therapy can help you manage pain, strengthen muscles around the spine, and get you moving comfortably and confidently again.

Joint Dislocations

Joint dislocations occur when the bones at a joint separate from their normal positions. This can be a very painful experience and often results in significant instability in the joint. Falls, accidents, and contact sports can cause joint dislocation. Massage and stretching are some of the techniques that physical therapists can use to reduce scar tissue and ensure that the joint surfaces move smoothly.

When To Start Physical Therapy After An Accident

In most cases, you can (and often should) start physical therapy very soon after an accident, ideally within a few days. Early intervention can significantly improve your overall recovery outcomes. Nevertheless, you should consult your healthcare provider first for personalized advice. 

Here are some general guidelines to consider:

  1. Consultation – It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional immediately after an accident, even if you do not experience immediate pain or visible injuries. They can assess your condition and determine if physical therapy is necessary.
  1. Acute Phase – Also known as the inflammatory stage, this phase constitutes the first 48–72 hours after an injury. It’s characterized by pain, swelling, redness, and loss of function. During this stage, it’s best to prioritize rest, pain management, and giving your body time to heal. Physical therapy may not be recommended during this phase, as it could further aggravate the injury.
  1. Subacute Phase – Once the acute phase has passed and your healthcare provider determines that it is safe to begin rehabilitation, physical therapy can be initiated. This phase typically starts a few days to a few weeks after the accident, depending on the severity of the injury.

The timing of physical therapy after an accident matters. Starting too soon can slow healing, but starting too late can lead to long-term complications. Follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and physical therapist to determine the optimal timing for your specific situation.

What To Expect During A Physical Therapy Session

Physical therapy sessions typically involve a combination of hands-on techniques, exercises, and education to facilitate your recovery. Here are some essential steps you can expect during a physical therapy session:

  1. Warm-up and Preparation – Before starting any exercises or techniques, your therapist will prepare your body for the session. This may involve stretching, gentle movements, or using heat or ice packs to relax muscles or reduce inflammation.
  1. Hands-on Techniques – Depending on your condition, your therapist may use manual therapy, massage, or joint mobilization to alleviate pain, improve circulation, or restore joint mobility.
  1. Therapeutic Exercises – These are designed to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance overall function. These exercises gradually progress in difficulty as your condition improves.
  1. Modalities and Equipment – Physical therapists may incorporate ultrasound, electrical stimulation, hot or cold packs, or specialized equipment like resistance bands or balance boards to enhance your rehabilitation.
  1. Education and Home Exercise Program – Your therapist will guide you in performing exercises correctly and safely. They will also develop a personalized home exercise program to ensure your progress between sessions.

Each session may vary in duration and intensity, depending on your specific needs and goals. Your physical therapist will continuously assess your progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly to ensure optimal recovery.

How Is My Recovery Measured?

Tracking your progress allows you and your therapist to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment plan and make adjustments as needed. Here are some ways to track progress:

  1. Measurement Tools – Your physical therapist may use range-of-motion measurements, strength tests, or functional assessments specific to your goals.
  1. Communication – Be transparent with your therapist regarding your progress, any changes in symptoms, or challenges you may be facing. This feedback helps them fine-tune the treatment plan and make necessary adjustments.
  1. Goal Reassessment – As you progress, your goals may change or evolve. Discuss these goals with your therapist periodically to ensure that they align with your current needs.

Physical therapy is a powerful recovery tool after an accident. It can ease your pain, get you moving again, and prevent future problems. However, you should also remember that every accident and injury is unique. The best physical therapy program should be tailored to your specific needs and goals. Talk to your doctor and physical therapist to create a personalized recovery program.

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