Previously Ottawa Holistic Wellness
Road Traffic Accidents Physical Therapies - Complete Wellbeing

Physical Therapies Following an Accident and/or Whiplash

In any circumstance, motor vehicle collations can lead to an array of symptoms that vary in severity, length, and prognosis. Symptoms depend on the nature of the accident and the uniqueness of the driver. Although the outcome of each accident is different, typical physical symptoms often occur and physical therapies are needed to help you return to your pre-accident self. Some good news is that, (according to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database), every year, the number of fatalities and severe injuries on Canada’s roads continue to decrease despite the fact that the number of vehicles continues to increase.

Although this positive trend is progressive, thousands of Canadians still suffer days, months and even years after an accident. How quickly people get better depends on a multitude of factors. For example, age, sex, vehicle damage, symptoms and concurrent physical therapy all play a role in the prognosis of an injury. Seeking manual treatment after your accident may help you recover faster and prevent longer lasting problems.


One of the most common outcomes of a motor vehicle collision is whiplash. Whiplash refers to damage and strain of the neck musculature and surrounding tissues. Whiplash most often occurs in an accident when the car is hit from behind or the side. In this case, the neck is thrown forward and then backs, then forward again. This action can cause the neck to become very sore, stiff and limit range of motion. It is important to note that whiplash injuries can also happen in other ways too. For example, sports trauma, physical abuse, falls and other things can also lead to a similar cluster of symptoms.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Specific symptoms of whiplash include; sore/stiff neck, shoulders, and upper back, headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling in the arms or hands and even nausea. Most often whiplash symptoms do not appear until 24-48 hours after the accidents. Often people are in shock immediately following the traumatic experience and fail to report their pain. If you feel extreme neck pain a few days after an accident, report it to your car insurance company and health provider. Symptoms can last weeks and even months after so the sooner you seek help, the faster you will recover.

Do not ignore whiplash symptoms. Whiplash is diagnosed on a scale of Grade 0 (no complaints or physical signs) to Grade 4 (fracture or dislocation). The good news is that most whiplashes are not serious and can be treated. Your doctor may prescribe you pain medication; however there are also several alternative therapies that can be effective in relieving pain and ultimately help you through the healing process.  For example, chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, osteopathy, physiotherapy and active rehabilitation are all great avenues to explore throughout your recovery. These therapists are trained professionals who can help you reduce pain and regain strength/mobility.

To prevent whiplash from potentially occurring in a motor vehicle accident, you should properly adjust the height of your car headrest. This action will help reduce potential forces that your neck may face. Have a look at your headrest; the top of your head should be in line with the top of the headrest, and there should be no more than 2 to 5 cm between the back of your head and the headrest.

Being in a motor vehicle accident of any severity is stressful. Make sure you seek the proper care in order to prevent any further pain or long-term complications. And always remember to wear your seatbelt!