How Long Should I Go to Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

How Long Should I Go to Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

The time you would need to spend going through physical therapy after a car accident could range from a few appointments to a few months of appointments.

After being involved in a car accident, you can consider yourself to be lucky if all you suffered were a few bumps, bruises, and a little body discomfort. As long as you don’t have to seek medical care for a serious injury, you’ll be able to overcome whatever physical injuries you incurred pretty quickly.

Assuming you might have body discomfort due to muscle strains or a pinched nerve, physical therapy and or a visit to a chiropractor would likely be the right call. Over the next week to a few months after the accident, you could be feeling as good as new. The question is, “How long should you go through physical therapy after a car accident?”

How Long Would I Need to Go to Physical Therapy After a Car Accident?

There are several factors that would determine how long you would need to work with a physical therapist or chiropractor after a car accident. At a minimum, you should be willing to commit to treatment for as long as it takes to alleviate your physical issues. If it’s a week, great. If it takes several appointments a week for several months, it would be in your best interest to follow through.

Factors Could That Affect the Length of Recovery

Above, it was stated that there are several factors that would play a role in determining how long you might need physical therapy. These are factors that a physical therapist or chiropractor would consider if you asked them for a treatment estimate. Let’s review some of the most important factors for determining the time needed for physical therapy.

The type of injury incurred

Here are some of the most common injuries one might incur during a car accident: whiplash (neck injury), herniated or ruptured discs (between vertebrae), bone fractures, pinched nerves, and pulled or strained muscles.

If you were to suffer a whiplash injury, you would probably need physical therapy for 1-3 months. In the case of a herniated disc, physical therapy and or a few chiropractic adjustments over a month or two could do the trick. With a ruptured disc, you would likely need surgery, after which you might need to submit to physical therapy to strengthen the injured area. That could take several months.

Since pinched nerves and pulled/strained muscles are not quite as serious as the aforementioned injuries, treatment over a few appointments might be all that is needed for recovery.

The degree of the injury

Of course, each of the aforementioned injuries could range from moderate to severe. If any of these injuries were on the moderate end of the spectrum, the time required in physical therapy would fall at the low end of any time estimate range. Conversely, severe injuries will take a lot longer for the healing process to take hold.

It is worth noting that a lot of severe injuries could end up requiring the use of more invasive treatment measures. The reference to more invasive treatment measures relates to treatment options like steroid injections, prescription medications, and surgical procedures.

Were there any previous injuries

If previous injuries have occurred in the same region, there is a good chance that the new injury combined with a previous injury could result in scar tissue buildup. The presence of scar tissue slows down the healing process because it slows down the blood flow to the injured area. In such cases, a longer commitment to physical therapy should be expected.

The Benefits One Would Get of Physical Therapy After Car Accident

Given the treatment options you would have from which to choose, you would only want to choose physical therapy if you would benefit from that choice. In most cases, patients do benefit from physical therapy. Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of physical therapy after a car accident.

Physical therapy speeds up the recovery process

It takes a healthy flow of fresh blood throughout the body to heal injuries. Physical therapy speeds up the recovery process in two ways. First, it helps increase the aforementioned flow of healthy blood to the injured area. Second, it helps strengthen the injured area to help prevent reinjuries during the healing process.

Physical therapy Helps with the reduction of pain symptoms

One of the key reasons you might want to submit to physical therapy is to address residual pain issues that started because of your car accident.

If the pain issues are bones related, a chiropractor could employ adjustment techniques that would bring about pain relief. If the pain were coming from a muscle pull/strain, a physical therapist or a chiropractor would likely employ massage techniques to loosen the muscle issue. Sometimes, the pain relief could be immediate.

Physical therapy can help mediate any long-term damage

Whenever you suffer a bone or muscle injury, you don’t want it to become a long-term or permanent injury. The faster a physical therapy process could be employed to prompt the healing process, the less likely it would be for an injury to become a long-term issue.

Physical therapy helps restore body function in patients who are dealing with old accident injuries

Old injuries often play a role in how well the body functions going forward. We know this because injuries could leave someone with a limp, loss of range of motion in a body joint, or chronic pain.

Physical therapy offers a great way to restore the body to normal function by helping with the healing process related to old and new injuries. It does this by increasing blood flow to promote more and faster healing. It also does this by strengthening body tissue in and around the injured area.

Physical therapy helps avoid the need for surgery

At the extreme end of the injury treatment spectrum is surgery. For as long as possible, you will want to avoid surgery to avoid the risks associated with the process. Also, surgical procedures usually increase the time needed for injuries to completely heal so the body can start functioning normally again.

If there is any chance at all that physical therapy can fix an issue without the risk of collateral damage, this is the option you would want to take. This would be true even if physical therapy offers a slower healing process. It’s all about avoiding the risks associated with surgery.

Physical therapy could help prevent any long-term complications

Physical therapy does two things. First, it prompts a faster and often better healing process. Second, it strengthens the body and specifically the injured area. Both of these benefits come together to help prevent the likelihood that a car accident injury will morph into other long-term complications.

Physical therapy could help save money over the long-term

Many times, physical therapy is the most financially frugal way to deal with a car accident injury. Think about it. If you were to agree to surgery, you would have a co-pay and perhaps miss time from work. Even with insurance, that could get a bit expensive. If a few physical therapy appointments could deliver similar results, it’s very likely the savings would be significant.

Physical therapy can help reduce the need for painkillers

If your car accident injury results in a chronic pain issue, your first instinct might be to seek prescription pain medication. There are two problems with this option. First, the pain relief would likely be short-lived and temporary. Second, frequent use of opioid painkillers can easily morph into an addiction to painkillers.

If physical therapy can deliver the pain relief you want and need, it’s a far better long-term pain relief option with significantly fewer risks in tow.

Physical therapy could help improve your mental health

There is an ancillary benefit that often comes with physical therapy. As healthy blood flows freely throughout the body, the body gets healthier. As the body gets healthier, people tend to eat better, exercise more, and have better sleep habits. All of that often adds up to individuals having a better mental attitude about their lives.

BTW: A body that functions well releases more of the right hormones. A person with access to more of the right hormones is less likely to experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Signs You Can Stop or Reduce the Number of Physical Therapist Clinic Visits

Clearly, the time will come when you can stop visiting your physical therapist or chiropractor. Of course, the right time to stop physical therapy would be when you were feeling much much better with little to no pain. Here are some of the signs you would want to consider.

Improved body function

Improved body function after a car accident refers to you being able to resume doing the things you could do before the accident. You would be looking for improvement in the way you walk, as well as improvement in your range of motion in your joint areas.

Decrease pain

Pain will always be the best barometer related to how you really feel. Most of us can function normally as long as we aren’t feeling pain. The time to lessen your reliance on physical therapy would be when your pain issue becomes manageable and non-debilitating.

Ability to do a follow-up to maintain results at home

At some point, your therapist or chiropractor might be willing to cut you loose if you were to be willing to do certain exercises at home. Should this option arise, it’s a sign your need for physical therapy is diminishing. You should embrace this option because it would translate to money and time savings.

Reduce the risk of reinjury

As your body and or the injured area gets stronger, the likelihood of reinjury diminishes. Your therapist or chiropractor should be able to tell you when the risk of reinjury is minimal.


How long does it take for muscles to heal after a car accident?

Strained muscles can heal in a few days with the employment of proper muscle massage techniques several times a day. If the muscle injury is a torn muscle, it could take up to a month for the muscle fibers to mend. Certain massage techniques could increase blood flow to the injured area, speeding up the healing process.

How long after an injury should you do physical therapy?

Ir would depend on the type and degree of the injury. Physical therapy becomes the right call when the risk of further damage falls to almost zero.

Does physical therapy speed up recovery?

Yes. As mentioned above, the body needs a strong flow of healthy blood to help with the healing process. Since physical therapy is specifically designed to return the body back to optimal functioning, it does promote better blood flow. Therefore, it’s clear that physical therapy will speed up recovery to some extent.

How long should you be sore after a car accident?

Depending on the type and degree of your injury, your soreness and discomfort will likely continue until the healing process has had ample time to take hold. Physical therapy could absolutely speed up the healing process while diminishing your soreness in the process.

Who pays for physical therapy after a car accident

Ir would depend on who was at fault. If you were at fault, the payments would come from your health/car insurance or out of your pocket. If another driver was at fault, payment responsibility would fall on them or their car insurance company. Your car insurance company can help you determine who should pay for your physical therapy.

When can I stop physical therapy

You can stop physical therapy whenever you want. However, you should stick with it until your pain is manageable and your body function is close to normal.

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