How Can Physical Therapy Or Chiropractic Care Help After A Car Accident?

Disclaimer: The following neither contains medical or legal advice but is for Informational Purposes Only. Consult a medical professional or attorney for your unique situation.

Car accidents can have a significant impact on quality of life. That effect depends mostly on injured body parts and the seriousness of injury. In the case of milder injury, the recovery is usually quick and it can be expected that the person will be in full health in short period of time.

If the injury is more severe, then the consequences can be devastating. However, this severity can be reduced if you follow recommendations from your doctor or other medical professionals regarding treatment protocols and rehabilitation.

The type of treatment options will vary from one doctor to another and it depends on the type of injury. Injuries such as whiplash, back sprains, contusions of different body parts, sprained joints (ankle, knee, shoulder, etc.) in most cases respond very well to conservative measures such as a short periods of rest, sometimes immobilization of the injured body part, pain killers, muscle relaxants, etc. More serious injuries such as bone fractures, ligament tears, or brain hemorrhage will demand other treatment options such as surgery.  In both cases, physical therapy and chiropractic care play a significant role.

Differences between Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

Although both chiropractic care and physical therapy deal with similar health issues, there are some differences between them.

Chiropractic care includes different natural techniques which are used to relieve pain and improve the flexibility of different body parts without using medications or other substances. In most cases it consists of manipulation of different body parts performed by a trained professional – chiropractor. Usually it is recommended after injuries to different parts of the spine or extremities.1

Physical therapy is another form of treatment after car accidents. It is performed by medical professionals (doctors and physical therapista) who are educated for the rehabilitation of the musculoskeletal system of the human body. Physical therapy includes many more treatment options than just manual therapy (massages, joint manipulation, etc.). Other common treatment options include use of heat, ultrasound, different types of electric stimulations, hydrotherapy, cold therapy, use of special types of mud (balneotherapy), etc.3

The choice of treatment that best suits the patient is decided by a medical doctor. After a detailed history and physical examination, your doctor will decide whether you are a better candidate for chiropractic care or physical therapy.

Generally speaking, injuries to the spine react well to spine manipulation and chiropractic care,while injuries to other parts of the body can benefit from physical therapy. However, this is not a strict rule. So, an individual with a spine injury can benefit from physical therapy, but a patient with a limb injury (shoulder injury, for example) can benefit from chiropractic care.

Benefits from Physical Therapy

Faster recovery

After any kind of injury, the body will need a period of rest in order to heal and restore strength. If the injury is more severe, this can be a lengthy process which can take a lot of time and energy. Physical therapy can be used to boost the body in order to restore strength faster. It can stimulate muscles to recover faster and allow the individual to become more active in the early period after injury.2

Pain reduction

Most people take painkillers in the early period after injury. The duration of drug intake will depend on the type of injury, patient sensitivity to pain, type of medicines used, etc. Less severe injuries can be successfully treated with mild painkillers such as Tylenol and after a few days the symptoms will resolve. On the other hand, more severe injuries (fractures, spine injuries, injuries to the internal organs, etc.) can demand stronger medicines in order to reduce the pain. Prolonged use of painkillers is not without possible complications. Narcotic painkillers have a possibility of creating an addiction. NSAIDs can slow down healing of bone fractures and increase hemorrhage from injury sites, etc. Physical therapy can be used to reduce the pain and so the need for pain killers is also reduced.2

Restoration of normal joint movement

Most injuries from car accidents require a period of rest in order to promote healing. In some cases, immobilization of the injured extremity is used as a treatment option ( for fractures, severe strains, sprains, ligament tears, etc.). The longer the extremity is immobilized, the more severe future consequences can be. In the case of prolonged immobilization, joints often become stiff which can be devastating. Physical therapy plays a pivotal role in restoring normal range of motion of a joint after injury or immobilization. Massages, manual therapy, joint manipulation, cold/heat treatment, electrical treatment, and ultrasound are all viable options for treatment of joint stiffness after immobilization.2

Whiplash injury

Whiplash is a frequent injury in car accidents and it involves the injury of different parts of the cervical spine. Initially it is treated with periods of rest, occasional use of a soft collar can to reduce motions of the neck, pain killers, and/or muscle relaxants. If the immobilization is prolonged for a period of time, there is a significant risk of reduction of muscle strength and more severe symptoms. Physical therapy can be used to restore the strength of neck muscles, reduce inflammation of neck structures, and reduce muscle spasms. The most commonly used treatment modalities include use of electric stimulation, massages, light stretching, electrical stimulation, cold treatments, topical use of painkillers, etc.4

In case of spine derangement, spinal manipulation performed by a trained chiropractor can restore the normal spine anatomy and reduce symptoms.

Injury prevention

Physical therapy can help you with prevention of future injuries, especially in cases of limb injuries such as joint sprains. It can help you increase the strength of muscles around the joints which will act like stabilizers and prevent future injuries.2

Care pattern

A lot of people that suffer car accidents have chronic symptoms related to that accident. If they don’t get physical therapy, they may not know how to cope with those symptoms and correctly address the issues. If you have physical therapy for a certain injury, you will most likely know how to react to a new onset of the same symptoms. You will learn the type of exercises that can help you prevent future deterioration.

In conclusion, physical therapy and chiropractic care are very versatile treatment options which can significantly help individuals after car accidents.

  1. Publishing, Harvard. “Chiropractic Care For Pain Relief – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
  2. “10 Reasons Why Physical Therapy Is Beneficial.” Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. N. p., 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
  3. Cold, Flu & Cough et al. “Physical Therapy For Pain.” WebMD. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
  4. “Whiplash.” N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.