If you’ve sustained a car accident injury, you are likely to need a course of treatment that involves physical therapy. The number of sessions and duration of the treatment can vary based on the type of injury you have and its severity, but physical therapy is typically performed over the course of weeks. While it is one of the most effective treatments for whiplash and other soft tissue injuries, many people wonder just how long they’ll need to be in physical therapy. Ultimately, your physical therapist will help you decide when it is the right time to end your sessions, but there are some other keys to help you determine when it’s time to move on.
Signs Your Physical Therapy Is Complete
As you progress through your physical therapy, you will notice changes in your body as a result of the treatment. Sometimes, small improvements can occur but that does not mean the underlying issue has been repaired. However, there are signs you can look for to help you see that this healing has occurred. In conjunction with your physical therapist, these signs can help determine when your treatment ends.
1. You Are in Less Pain
Most injuries that require physical therapy involve some sort of pain or discomfort, which may be at its worst early on in the course of treatment. This typically makes it hard to go about your daily activities and re-engage with normal life after your accident. One of the goals of physical therapy is to help manage, reduce, or possibly eliminate the pain you are feeling. While some may still be present, when this pain stops impeding your daily life, it may be a sign that the treatment has done its job.
2. You Have Regained Function
In addition to the pain caused by an injury, you may notice a decrease in mobility, range of motion, and general function of the injured part of your body. When this happens, your physical therapist will focus on restoring range of motion and function. Ideally, it will eventually become like the injury never occurred and you will return to your previous level of function. But in many cases, you will have a slightly reduced or changed level of function, but you have still reached the goals of your treatment. When your function is restored or improved as much as it can be, it may be time to end treatment.
3. You Are Less Likely to Be Reinjured
One of the most important goals of a physical therapist is to not just treat your current injury, but prevent it from happening again. They aim to build muscle in the surrounding area so that you are less likely to sustain the same injury again in the future. For example, treatment for whiplash may focus on building up neck and shoulder muscles. You may notice that in addition to feeling less pain, you also feel stronger during the course of your treatment. When your therapist agrees that the muscles are strong enough, it is safe to cease treatment without fear of re-injury.
4. You Can Do Exercises At Home
Even if you are not fully healed at the end of your physical therapy, you may be able to complete exercises on your own to maintain function and continue managing pain. At some point, the routine you can do at home is just as effective as what can be done in the clinic. When this is true, your therapist may begin reducing the number of appointments you have and supplementing with at-home exercises. This decision should be made in conjunction with your practitioner so that you remain safe.
The Bottom Line
There is no single answer to how long you will need physical therapy. Treatment for whiplash is usually complete within three months, while severe spinal injuries may require years of treatment. The type of injury you are treating and how severe it is will all play a role in determining how long your treatment is. However, as a rule, physical therapy will be over when you have reached your goals. Expect on your first visit that this will most likely be laid out and evaluated periodically. When you reach those goals, your treatment is likely over.
At AICA Conyers, our physical therapists work with a team of specialists to develop the right goals and treatment plans for every patient. As experts in car accident injuries, our chiropractors and orthopedists work with the physical therapy team to develop personalized plans that meet the needs of every individual we see. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact AICA Conyers today to begin healing.