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Originally Posted On: https://chghealth.com/how-long-should-i-go-to-physical-therapy-after-car-accident-injuries/
If you were involved in a car accident in New York, you may sustain a severe injury that requires ongoing medical attention. To aid in your recovery, your doctor may also refer to you a physical therapist (PT) clinic near you.
The best physical therapist is familiar with common car accident injuries and can devise a course of treatment designed to reduce pain and inflammation, increase muscle strength, promote healing of the tissues, and improve mobility and functionality.
Physical therapy after a car accident injury can have several benefits, but only if you continue with the sessions for the prescribed amount of time. How long is that, though?
Though the answer really depends on your unique situation and injury, it may help to understand what the average length of recovery is, the factors that affect the recovery process and, for those of you who are anxious to get better, the benefits of continuing physical therapy until you are at or in better condition than your pre-injured self.
Common Auto Accident Injuries That May Benefit From the Services of the Best Physical Therapist
In 2019, U.S. hospitals and medical centers treated 4.5 million car accident injuries. Though those injuries run the gamut from head injuries to back injuries, and from lacerations to broken bones, many of them could benefit from physical therapy. What types of common injuries, exactly, do physical therapists treat?
While, as with any doctor, the answer depends on the therapist’s specialty, your New York physical therapist treats the following types of car accident injuries:
- Back injuries
- Chest injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Neck injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
By partnering with other specialists, such as pain management specialists, orthopedists, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, and chiropractors, physical therapists support accident victims, helping them recover and prevent secondary injuries following burn injuries, road rash, limb loss, and other catastrophic injuries that can occur after car accidents.
The Average Length of Recovery With Physical Therapy
The number of physical therapy sessions you will require to recover fully depends on factors unique to your situation. However, it may help to know that the average car accident victim undergoes physical therapy for between six to eight weeks for soft tissue injuries.
Some patients require one visit a week, while others require as many as three visits per week. It is important to understand the factors that may affect your recovery so that you can better plan for visits.
Factors That Affect the Length of Recovery
The severity of your injury, the type of injury you sustained and your physical health prior to the accident will all greatly influence the recovery process. Your treatment goals may also affect the recovery timeline.
- The Type and Severity of Injury: The factor that will likely have the greatest influence on your recovery timeline is the type and severity of the injury or injuries you sustained during the car accident. For instance, if you develop whiplash in a collision, it may take you anywhere from one to three months to recover. With physical therapy, soft tissue injuries can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to heal. Recovering full strength after a fracture or a break can take as long as two years with physical therapy.
- Previous Injuries: When injuries compound, they become more difficult to treat. For instance, if you were already dealing with back pain prior to the accident, perhaps even from old car accident injuries, the crash may have significantly aggravated your condition. If this is the case, the best physical therapist will address the primary issues and include treatment of those in the recovery plan, which can prolong the treatment process.
- Treatment Goals: Finally, your defined treatment goals will dictate the number of visits you need over the course of X number of weeks or years. Goals may include reducing pain and inflammation, restoring normal range of motion, increasing mobility, improving strength, decreasing scar tissue, promoting the healing of tissue, and/or restoring full functionality. Depending on how many goals your physical therapy team addresses and how far from your goals you are at the onset of treatment, you may be in therapy for anywhere from months to years.
Ideally, the team at your physical therapist clinic will assess each of the factors during your initial visit and give you a projected recovery timeline. Though no recovery timeline is set in stone, the best therapists can give you an as close to an accurate estimated timeframe as possible so that you can plan your schedule accordingly.
Benefits of Continuing Physical Therapy After Car Accident
Understandably, you may be anxious to get better and move on with your life after a car accident. This eagerness may cause you to rush through the treatment process and forego additional beneficial — but not necessarily required — treatment. By rushing through treatment, though, you may unwittingly deny yourself the very real benefits of long-term physical therapy treatment.
Physical Therapy Supports the Recovery Process
Joint pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and headaches are all symptoms that individuals commonly experience following a car crash. Though such symptoms can undoubtedly cause discomfort, society has created the concept that such symptoms are normal parts of the aging process. This notion may prevent many people from seeking the therapy they need to heal and regain full health.
If you ditch the idea that stiffness, pain and reduced ranges of motion are all acceptable parts of life — especially following a car crash — and if you seek help from a physical therapist, you would be taking steps to support the recovery process. Physical therapists design their regimes for car accident victims to boost flexibility, increase range of motion, improve strength, reduce pain and reduce inflammation. In short, they design their programs to help injured persons bounce back from their injuries faster.
Physical Therapy Helps To Reduce Pain Symptoms
Following a car crash, the last thing you may want to do is move around. Yet, moving around may be just what your body needs to avoid feeling excruciating pain. Fortunately, physical therapy can help facilitate pain relief.
Sitting around for any length of time, regardless of the reason, can lead to increased inflammation throughout the body, muscle weakness and stiffness. Movement, on the other hand, gets oxygen pumping through our veins, which, in turn, carries nutrients to the injured sites. These nutrients bolster your body’s ability to heal itself.
Moreover, each stretch and exercise in which you engage gets your body used to a wider set of functions and motions. For instance, if, following an accident, you can only move your head 20 degrees to the right and 15 to the left, you can improve that range bit by bit each day with neck exercises.
Physical Therapy Can Help To Reduce Long-Term Damage
It is not uncommon for car accident victims to live with lingering pain and symptoms in the months and years following the incident. This risk of living with long-term damages go up for each day that injuries remain unaddressed.
If you invest in physical therapy in the immediate aftermath of your accident, you can not only speed up your recovery but also, you can reduce the likelihood that you will live with chronic pain. This becomes increasingly true the more severe your injuries are.
Physical Therapy Can Help Restore Function in Patients Who Live With Old Accident Injuries
If you were in a car accident in the past and never sought the services of a physical therapist clinic, know that you can still benefit from stretches and exercise. Physical therapy can restore mobility and function in patients who sustained their injuries months or even years ago. Though the treatment plan will likely be more involved, injured persons can obtain long-term relief without pain medications and regardless of how long it has been since the accident occurred.
Physical Therapy Can Help You Avoid Surgery
Unfortunately, some car accident injuries will require you to undergo surgery right away. However, many non-life-threatening injuries typically benefit from non-invasive treatment, such as what the best physical therapist offers.
Of course, we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking care sooner rather than later. Over time, non-serious injuries will experience natural wear and tear, which will eventually result in a condition that professionals can only treat with surgery. If the injured party had strengthened the injured area through physical therapy, on the other hand, he or she may have been able to avoid the need for surgery altogether.
Signs You Can Stop or Reduce the Number of Physical Therapist Clinic Visits
If you are currently attending physical therapy after car accident and have been for some time, you may wonder when you can cease visits. Your physical therapist should be able to tell you how many more visits he or she thinks you should attend to achieve optimal health. That said, there are a few ways you can determine, on your own, that the days of you needing physical therapy are coming to an end.
Injured parts of the body do not function as they should, which often means they function in a limited capacity. It is the job of your physical therapist to show you what you need to do to restore function and a body part’s range of motion back to normal.
Though the desired goal is to get you to your pre-injury condition, your physical therapist may concede that the best you will ever get is slightly below your pre-injury range. Whatever the case, once you have met your goal and your therapist determines you cannot improve anymore, you will no longer need physical therapy.
Absence of Pain
For many people, the purpose of undergoing physical therapy is to help ease the pain. With time, physical therapy should reduce the inflammation surrounding an injury and, in the process, minimize or eliminate the pain. Once you get to the point where you can engage in your daily activities with little to no pain, you can likely stop physical therapy.
Ability to Maintain Results at Home
Some people will require ongoing or possibly lifelong therapy to maintain their results. The good news is that many of the later exercises are ones individuals can perform on their own and in their homes.
If your physical therapist determines that you have benefited all you can from in-office treatments, he or she may recommend that you stop sessions with the stipulation that you engage in specified exercises on your own. To ensure you assume accountability, your therapist may slowly reduce the frequency of appointments until he or she is secure in the knowledge that you can maintain the results on your own.
Reduced Risk of Reinjury
Physical therapists often approach each case with multiple objectives. The first and most obvious is to treat the injury. A secondary objective, however, often involves preventing reinjury by building up the muscles around the affected area. Once your muscles are strong enough, and once the injury is healed, your therapist will either stop sessions or recommend exercises you can do at home.
Physical Therapist’s Choice of Words
One of the easiest ways to determine how many more sessions in which you have to participate is by listening to your therapist. Throughout a session, your therapist may use phrases such as, “at your next visit,” or “in one month we will try…”
These phrases indicate a continued need for you to undergo physical therapy. After six to eight weeks, though, your therapist may use phrases such as, “in your final session,” or “when I cut you lose to do these on your own…” Phrases such as these indicate that your physical therapy days are coming to an end.
Seek the Help You Need From the Best Physical Therapist
Understandably, you may be in a hurry to resume life as normal after a serious injury from a car accident, which may mean doing away with all the doctor’s appointments and receive physical therapy as quickly as possible.
Before you rush your recovery, though, know that your medical team only recommends treatment when it is in your best interests. Physical therapy costs may be covered by insurance or by any personal injury claims resulting from the accident. Our doctors and physical therapists accept no-fault insurance, PIP, workers’ compensation, and other health insurance plans.
By following through with doctor’s orders and attending each session of PT without fail, you can speed up your recovery time, reduce the risk of reinjury and help you resume a pain-free life.
To begin your physical therapy journey after your car accident, contact our physical therapist clinic today.