9 Steps of Recovery After a Car Accident
Updated: Apr 25
A car accident is a traumatic event both physically and mentally. If you've experienced even a minor injury, pain, and discomfort caused by it, that can make getting back to regular life challenging.
Many people try to "shake it off" and get back to their usual tasks without taking proper care or focusing on the recovery period. However, most of the time, for car accident recovery, you need...time.
It's also important to remember that after the accident, you should always consult your doctor. Even if you think that your injuries are minor, a professional will give you a proper exam and help you with recovery plans and execution.
In addition to that, there are multiple other ways to speed up the recovery and healing time, which include proper nutrition, exercise, and physical therapy.
Here are 9 steps to recovery after a car accident.
How long does it take to heal after an accident?
Recovery time after a car accident and healing is highly personal and depends on the injury and its severity. The time can take from a couple of weeks to a few months.
There are other factors to your recovery time, such as your general health and how quickly after the accident you got help and treatment. Your lifestyle, age, and how much time off work you've got to heal also play a role.
Tips for recovering after car accident injuries
1. Consult with a doctor
First and foremost, you should talk to your doctor and follow their advice and instructions.
While you can initially contact your primary care physician, you'll need to get a referral to a specialist who will treat your specific injuries and address such issues as headache and nausea after a car accident, insomnia, etc.
A specialist doctor will diagnose, treat and help you with your rehabilitation process. For an effective and speedy (as much as possible) recovery after a car accident, you should follow their prescribed treatment plan.
Don't just consult with your doctor once; schedule follow-up appointments to assess your progress and adjust the treatment if needed.
2. Use ice and heat
Even if you didn't sustain serious injuries, your muscles often feel sore after a car accident because of the impact, stress, and tension. Use ice on the sore or injured body parts to control pain and reduce swelling and inflammation.
We recommend doing this in the first 72 hours after the accident by applying ice for 10-15 minutes at a time and repeating as needed.
Reducing swelling and inflammation is crucial to speed up the recovery time after a car accident.
Don't use heat on an acute injury. However, it's beneficial to incorporate it in the latter days to help relax muscle tension.
3. Visit a Physical Therapist
Physical therapy (PT) can be very beneficial for your car accident recovery, and many doctors recommend it in their treatment plans.
As we explained in a previous article, physical therapy can help speed up the process and lower the risk of chronic ailments later on.
PT uses different healing modalities from ultrasound, electrical stimulation, light therapy, massages to various exercises. The therapist will assess your individual situation, needs and create a personalized treatment program.
These treatments can help relieve pain, increase your mobility, improve range of motions, strength and get back you on your feet as soon as possible.
4. Try massage
Besides physical therapy, you can also try massage therapy, which effectively treats car accident injuries and can help reduce muscle spasms, increase blood flow, improve range of motion, and provide stress relief.
If you've experienced whiplash during your accident, massage can also help car accident whiplash recovery. According to our previous article about the distinct types of physical treatment, it may relieve some of the tension in the neck muscles
5. Rest and limit physical activity
Many people try to get back to their normal lives as soon as possible, which is understandable but not advisable.
You should take time to rest and also limit your physical activity. While sleeping, the body increases blood flow to the muscles and tissue, encouraging muscle repair and growth.
Sleep also helps regulate your hormones, reduce stress, and by extension, reduces inflammation. Recovery after a car accident, big or small, requires sleep, rest and downtime so your body can heal.
Trying to do too much can just set you back, so exercise patience.
6. Do stretches
While intense workouts are not recommended, you should start slow, easy stretches when you're ready.
These types of stretches (recommended by your physical therapist or doctor) will help your body heal quicker, increase blood flow and reduce stiffness.
If the accident affected your shoulder, you can find some easy exercises for shoulder pain here.
After a traumatic injury, the body sometimes gets dehydrated faster, so you should up your water intake and make sure you have your bottle with you at all times.
Drink at least 6 cups of water per day, but more if possible. Proper hydration will help your body recover faster and speed up the healing process.
Hydration also aids your immune system, which often is stressed after a car accident.
8. Eat healthy
Food is also essential for your car accident recovery, so make sure you eat nutritious meals to provide your body with the nutrients necessary for healing.
These include fruit, vegetables, greens that help reduce inflammation, and healthy proteins like fish, chicken, beef for muscle rebuilding.
You also need vitamins and minerals. According to active.com, vitamin-rich foods include oranges and all citrus fruits, kiwi, and cantaloupe; mineral-rich foods include lean meats, yogurt, and milk.
9. Get emotional help and be patient
The car accident experience hurts not just your physical but also mental health. Many people suffer emotional trauma, anxiety, PTSD and depression afterwards.
Make sure you get help and do not isolate yourself. Talk to a professional, engage with family and friends, live your usual life once physically able, and don't pressure yourself to get better faster. It takes time.
It's essential to stay patient. Car accident recovery is a long and slow process that can get frustrating and annoying. Don't compare yourself to others, and understand that your body and mind will heal at their own pace.
Having trouble recovering from your pain? Consult a professional at Miracle Rehab Clinic.
Miracle Rehab Clinic operates in two locations in the Michigan state: Farmington Hills and Warren. We have physical therapists ready to help you through your journey of recovery. Contact us now!