Mental Health: The Importance Of Seeking Physical Therapy After A Car Accident

Physical affliction isn’t the only aspect paramount to a full recovery. Mental health must be addressed for full rehabilitation. Here’s how physical therapy can help.

After suffering any form of car accident, you’ll want to consider physical therapy as a viable method of recovery. It could be for niggly whiplash after a low-speed shunt, addressing that broken ankle that folded over the brake pedal, or complete rehabilitation to combat severe injuries after a life-threatening crash. 

Victims of automobile accidents report feeling as though their ‘world has turned upside down’ after going through the motions related to traffic collisions. The crash may be over in a matter of seconds, but the lasting impact can elongate suffering and trauma to a large extent. 

It’s common for daily life to prove difficult when dealing with the aftershock of a car crash. After such blunt-force trauma, damaged muscles, shredded nerves, and shattered joints can put victims through hell. 

However, Physical injuries aren’t the only concerns, as mental health can suffer, too

The effects of an accident can take a huge toll on mental stability. A third of those who survive a car crash also experience various forms of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). 

Addressing physical afflictions is only part of the recovery process. While getting back on your feet remains paramount to a full rehabilitation, mental trauma needs to be confronted to prevent debilitating consequences. 

Although the world is slowly awakening to the importance of mental hygiene, the mentality of a car crash victim is not always approached with the urgency required. That’s where physical therapy can play a beneficial part.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

One of the biggest causes of mental anguish after a car accident revolves around quality of life. While facing excessive healing time, or having to cope with a lack of mobility, maintaining a positive mantra is far from easy. It doesn’t take long before burnout occurs. 

What once felt like a swift and easy task – such as getting dressed, bending down, or going about daily chores – can quickly become laborious and punishing. Moving around with broken bones or torn muscles rapidly boils daily horizons down into suffocating experiences. 

It’s well documented that self-sufficiency and mental health are tightly related. When freedom of independence and mobility is affected, it can bring on a whole range of mental ailments.

As human beings, refusing to seek help is often hard-coded into our DNA. Burying our heads in the sand, or putting off a diagnosis, remains stereotypical behaviour for those who have developed health problems following an accident. 

According to research, this behaviour is common because of our inability to accept that something is wrong with us. What we don’t know can’t hurt us; the pain will miraculously cure itself – ‘just you wait and see‘. 

Problem is, that’s not going to happen. By continuing this refusal of diagnosis, the potential for a mental health implosion risks all forms of rehabilitation. Seeking an intervention with physical therapy, on the other hand, promotes recovery and simultaneously addresses the related mental health issues. 

Not only that, but by engaging with a physical therapist, you’ll gain help in identifying injuries that you are unaware of; injuries that can become serious without treatment. 

By overcoming the pain of physical injuries, and getting your life back, mental hygiene will improve and ensure that those dark clouds of depression don’t overwhelm the psyche. 

Furthermore, by regaining quality of life, paired with the resurgence of dignity and self-dependence, physical therapy will keep you on a positive path – free from mental health complications. 

This physical therapy path consists of educating car crash victims on the correct body positioning (and posture) to help effectively manage pain, alongside the beneficial exercises that restore core strength and allow ease of movement. 

A physical therapist will also engage with manual therapy to reduce discomfort and improve your range of motion, with the aim for rehabilitation patients to safely regain their normal activities, commutes, and routines. 

Common Mental Traumas Caused By Vehicle Accidents

As anyone who has suffered through a car accident will tell you, a collision can bring distressing and traumatic issues to the forefront of the mind. Victims can find themselves residing in a state of shock for several days, while appearing visibly shaken. 

And then there’s the risk of mental trauma. Here are some of the most common forms that we encounter in car crash patients. 

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) 

While shock can wear off over time, it can leave a relentless cousin behind – known as PTSD. PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Traumatic events can make us feel that our lives are unpredictable, that we are out of control, find it difficult to feel safe and trust other people, ourselves and our judgements. PTSD changes the way someone thinks and acts, based on recurring anxiety; causing nightmares and ‘irregular’ thoughts. 

Around 1 in 10 individuals who are involved in a traffic collision develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The risk of developing PTSD stems from a number of factors, such as the social, legal, and economic repercussions following the accident, and the type of accident itself. 


Alongside PTSD, depression can become a common aftershock post-accident. This depression can come from guilt, self-imposed culpability, or dejection around their physical condition after the crash. 

Depression can initially be hard to spot, but once it’s taken hold, it can cause damage in various aspects of life. Never dismiss symptoms that range from anxiety, lack of appetite, sleep loss, headaches, fatigue, or ‘out of character’ actions. 

If someone was experiencing depression before their accident, the pain of an injury can deepen the condition. Not to mention the physical limitations and lack of independence that comes with the recovery of serious injuries. 


This is a disorder that refers to the ‘out of body experience’ often encountered when reliving the moment of an accident, and the immediate time thereafter. Patients report feeling separated from their own body, outwith their own thought process and inner monologue. 

Dissociation leads to disengagement with immediate surroundings, as though walking through a dream. According to specialists, our brains employ this condition as a self-defence mechanism to minimize stress levels.

Although this allows processing time through a numbing of emotions, it can actually hinder full recovery, and sometimes result in a suspension of belief that the car crash happened in the first place. 

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After A Car Crash 

Ok. Let’s get to business on this one. After the initial post-collision health check (either in a hospital, or after visiting your doctor), physical therapy supports a fast recovery – depending on the severity of your condition. 

The mental anguish of suffering discomfort, stiffness, an impaired range of movement, and chronic pain can be counteracted by tailored exercise and a bespoke treatment programme. Seeking professional help speeds up the rehabilitation time, and helps to build the flexibility and strength required for a successful recuperation. 

As with any injurious situation, an effective course of physical therapy alleviates pain and prevents long-term damage. Complications from an accident can lead to chronic pain, should the source(s) of pain not be addressed. 

If an inability to walk free from pain is not tackled by a professional, then permanent damage is very common. Getting help as soon as possible will help to secure a pain-free lifestyle once fully recovered. Nobody wants long-term damage purely because help was not sought in a timely manner. 

For reducing pain, seeing a physical therapist remains one of the best courses of action you can take. By keeping active, your body can pump nutrients and oxygen-laden blood cells towards the pain source. This helps to avoid something which causes real anxiety and fear – surgery. 

While we cannot promise that physical therapy can prevent surgery when life-threatening injuries are involved, our treatment can stop minor problems from intensifying over time; preventing surgery down the line. 

In some cases, it is impossible to avoid a surgical procedure. So, where can physical therapy step in? PT works wonders on preventing increased wear-and-tear upon injured joints, tendons, muscles, and tissue. 

With all of this at work, the mental state of anyone who has been a victim of an automobile collision, or involved in a car crash, can benefit from appropriate physical therapy. 

Getting a car crash victim back on their feet – quickly, efficiently, and with as little discomfort as possible – is our main aim and prerogative. 

If you have been in an accident and require professional help, get in touch with us and we will endeavour to help. You can reach us anytime through our contact page. 

And, remember, we are here to help. We do not judge. Don’t suffer in silence should you be in pain. You can find more information about our services through this link

Andrew Vertson