Hours: Monday-Thursday 7:00am-7:00pm | Friday 7:00am-6:00pm | Saturday 8:00am-2:00pm

How Physiotherapy can Help After Being in a Motor Vehicle Accident

We are switching our winter tires to our summer ones. Rolling down our windows and enjoying the sun! Around this time, we can sometimes get too adventurous in our cars and we might end up in a fender bender.

Let’s talk about physiotherapy after a motor vehicle accident. Whether you were in an accident over the winter or happen to bump into one this spring, we got your back (pun intended).

After a car accident what is the first thing we do? Attend physiotherapy? We wish! Most of us exchange insurance and book our vehicle in to get fixed. But what about our bodies?! Do we book those in to get fixed? Often, the answer is no. It may not be till days or weeks down the road that you start to notice some of the effects the accident had on your body.

If you, or anyone you know has been in a car accident you have probably heard of the term Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD). WAD is a consequence of a whiplash injury caused by rapid acceleration-deceleration of the head and neck, leading to bony and soft tissue injuries (1).

Some of the common symptoms patients present with when experiencing WAD include neck & back pain or stiffness, headache, radicular (nerve) symptoms, and cognitive impairments (2).

A grading scale of 0-4 is used to classify the severity of symptoms. Following an assessment with a healthcare professional they are able to determine what grade you are presenting with to determine an appropriate intervention tailored to you.

How can physio help you?

We turned to the research to answer this question.

A systematic review showed “conservative [non-surgical] intervention seems to be a useful intervention for acute WAD II management in terms of pain reduction in the medium to long term.” (1) More importantly, active intervention was more effective than passive intervention for pain reduction at 6 months.

Active intervention includes range of motion, stretching, strengthening and proprioception exercises to name a few. Passive intervention includes massage, joint mobilizations, heat, ice and other modalities.

When should I start physiotherapy after my accident?

The quick answer – immediately! The sooner you start rehab, the sooner we can work together to get you moving better.

What can I expect at physiotherapy after my car accident?

Treatment will look different for each person depending on your symptoms, limitations, and most importantly your goals for rehab. We use a variety of the conservative interventions the above research has shown to be effective. These include both physical and psychological components such as; active range of motion & strengthening exercises, manual therapy techniques, modalities as needed for pain management, behavioural approaches to address the psychological components (fear, anxiety, stress) and education.

In summary, do not let a car accident stop you from living a happy healthy life. Remember, “motion is lotion” and getting you moving after a car accident is exactly what the body needs.

If you have questions specific to your or a friend/family member give us a call. We would love to chat about how you can get back on the road, pain free!

Happy Spring,


  1. Wiangkham T, Duda J, Haque S, Madi M, Rushton A (2015) The Effectiveness of Conservative Management for Acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. PLoS ONE 10(7)
  1. WALTON, D. M., MACDERMID, J. C., & GIORGIANNI, A. A. (2013, February). Risk Factors for Persistent Problems Following Acute Whiplash Injury: Update of a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Retrieved from Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy |.