The Road to Recovery: How Long Does Physical Therapy Treatment for Motor Vehicle Accidents Last?

Title Card with the Text: The Road to Recovery: How Long Does Physical Therapy Treatment for Motor Vehicle Accidents Last?

Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) can have far-reaching physical consequences, leaving individuals with a range of injuries that require specialized care. One of the most effective ways to address these injuries and support recovery is through physical therapy. However, the duration of physical therapy treatment for MVAs can vary based on the severity and type of injuries. In this blog, we’ll explore the typical course of physical therapy treatment for different kinds of injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents.

Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash is a common injury that occurs when the head jerks forward and backward suddenly during a collision. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in treating whiplash, and a typical course of treatment may last between 8 to 16 weeks. Therapists focus on reducing pain and stiffness, improving neck mobility, and strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles.

Fractures and Dislocations

Fractures and dislocations can vary in severity, and the duration of physical therapy will depend on factors such as the type of fracture and the individual’s healing progress. For instance, a minor fracture may require 8 to 12 weeks of physical therapy to regain strength and function, while more complex fractures may require longer treatment periods. Typically, the physiotherapy treatment is begun once the fractures have stabilized after a 3-8 week immobilization period.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, can cause pain and reduced mobility. Physical therapy for these injuries generally lasts around 4 to 16 weeks. Therapists use manual techniques, exercises, and modalities to promote healing, reduce inflammation, and restore function.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Severe motor vehicle accidents can lead to spinal cord injuries that result in partial or complete paralysis. The duration of physical therapy for spinal cord injuries varies greatly, as it involves long-term rehabilitation. Treatment can span several months or even years, focusing on maximizing functional independence and mobility.

Head Injuries and Concussions

Head injuries and concussions require a cautious and gradual approach to physical therapy. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may last for several weeks or months. Therapists prioritize rest and gradual re-introduction of physical activities to allow the brain to heal properly.

Physical therapy is an invaluable resource in the recovery process after motor vehicle accidents. The duration of treatment varies based on the type and severity of injuries sustained. By working closely with skilled physiotherapists, individuals can embark on a personalized journey to regain function, reduce pain, and improve their quality of life.

Vertigo and Inner Ear Issues such as BPPV and vestibular neuritis

Symptoms: dizziness, spinning sensation, nausea, can be constant or episodic in nature depending on the cause
Cause: BPPV associated with age >50, linked with osteopenia, vestibular neuritis caused by an inner ear infection
Treatment: manual therapy techniques such as the Epley Maneuver or BBQ Roll, therapeutic exercise for adaptation and habituation of the vestibular apparatus, patient education
Other Interventions: SERC or antiemetic medication for dizziness or nausea, consult with an ENT, otologist, or neurologist to rule out other more serious conditions that might require surgery


Symptoms: headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, difficulty thinking clearly, short term memory loss
Causes: direct blow to or rapid deceleration of head
Physiotherapy: Treatments: manual therapy to reduce headaches, patient education on the progression and prognosis of concussions as well as pacing and planning techniques, therapeutic exercise including both postural exercise as well as ‘brain gym’ exercises
Other Interventions: massage therapy, CT scan in some cases to rule out life-threatening brain injuries, pain or migraine medication, use of sunglasses or earplugs to reduce symptoms

Cervicogenic Headaches

Symptoms: pain in the base of the skull radiating over the top of the head
Causes: poor postural habits or strain to neck
Physiotherapy Treatments: manual therapy to reduce muscle tension in the suboccipital muscles, traditional physiotherapy modalities, therapeutic exercise, patient education to reduce the aggravation of symptoms related to poor ergonomic or postural habits, acupuncture, shockwave to resolve adjacent trigger points
Other Interventions: massage therapy, antiinflammatory or pain medication, migraine pill, botox injections, other investigations such as a CT scan to rule out serious problems of the brain