Car Accident Therapy Decisions

Car accidents happen. They are unexpected and can be traumatic, but a full recovery after an incident is highly possible with the correct form of treatments.

If you were physically injured from a recent motor vehicle accident, you may need car accident therapy to get back on your feet.

The following article will teach you everything you need to know about how to get the right care for you needs, as well as the benefits of therapy, different types of therapies, and what to expect.

Let's get into it!

Medical Evaluation – Physician or Physiotherapist Services?

If you have a serious injury, go to the emergency department. If your injury is a non-emergency, but you require medical attention, consult your family physician or walk-in physician. If your injuries are more soft tissue in nature, consult a physiotherapist. To qualify for in-protocol programs, you must be evaluated within 10 days of the injury.

You have just completed your self-assessment and determined you have sustained an injury from the car accident. You have aches and pain which limit function but are not life threatening. You need to decide to see either a physician or a physiotherapist

When to Consult a Physician

Physician diagnose serious injuries and assess for signs of physical or mental trauma. Physician are able to determine if diagnostic imaging is required and coordinate referrals with medical specialists. Physician monitor for serious signs and symptoms and manage with self-care, advice, and medications when required. If you have been in a car accident, it is advised you consult your family physician.

When to Consult a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapist assess function. Through observation, history, and physical examinations, physiotherapists are able to determine which muscles, ligaments, joints, and nerves have been damaged or irritated. In most cases, the physiotherapist works with the family physician to facilitate the recovery process.

Physiotherapist use exercise and self-care as their first line of treatment. If needed, physiotherapist will recommend active care which includes hands on techniques, modalities, and various acupuncture/needling techniques.

Need Time off Work

If you need time off work, you must be assessed by a physician. If deemed medically necessary, the physician will complete Form AB-1A Claim For Disability Benefits. Note: You will need to complete Part 1 and 2 prior to seeing the physician. Part 3 and 4 is completed by the physician and is send to your insurance company.

Need Therapy

If you need any form of therapy, it is recommended that you are assessed by a physiotherapist. If deemed therapeutically necessary, the physical therapy will complete Form AB-2 Treatment Plan. The physiotherapist will complete Part 3 to 6. You will need to complete Part 1,2 and 7. Depending on your findings, your treatment can be administered by a physiotherapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor.

Injuries: Course of Care

During your recovery, you will need to see both your physician and physiotherapist on a regular basis. As a patient, it is important you understand your injuries and be an active participant. In the first 4 weeks after the accident, you will notice the most improvement.

If you fail to achieve your targets during this period, your physician or physiotherapist will discuss your findings and provide specific recommendations. If you require additional information or resources, our office will be pleased to assist you if you live in the Calgary area.


Top 10 Self-Assessment Tests after a Car Accident




It is important to assess yourself to monitor your injuries. Regular testing in the morning can assist you in making better activity decision later in the day.

Following a car accident, it is normal to have pain and stiffness. For most, it is a balance of staying active and being respectful of your body. For others, body awareness is a challenge and perceived ability may be far greater than actual.

Self-assessment is a tool where one measures their own performance. Physical outcomes can be influenced by pain, effort, and injury. The purpose of the self-assessment is not to game the test, but rather to gain feedback on what you can and cannot do. By doing the following test, you will have a pretty good picture of your functional performance.

Car Accident Self-Tests

Do the following tests. If the test is easy, give yourself a 3 out of 3. If you cannot perform the movement due to pain or any other symptom, give yourself a 0 out of 3. If is somewhere in the middle, you got a 1. If it is almost there, but not really, you got a 2. Do not perform any tests where you feel you are unsafe.

Test performed in standing

  • Look down to your feet. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Assess how far you can look down. Is it easy or hard? Where do you feel tight or weak.
  • Look behind you in the stand position and rotate as much as possible. How far can you turn? Is it equal both ways? If it harder one direction, where does it pull the most?
  • Raise both your arms over your head. Clap your hands over your head 10 times. Did you feel any sharp pain?
  • Reach down to your toes with your hands. Hold for 30 seconds. Where do you feel the pull? Do you have a sharp pain on the way back up? Repeat toe touch exercise 10 times. Does it make the pain worse?
  • Complete a squat. How far can you get? Is it ½ way or all the way? Where do you feel the tension? If there is no pain, hold the deep squat for 30 seconds and stand. Did it catch anywhere on the way back up?
  • Lean forwards slightly like you are chopping vegetables on a counter. Hold the position for 90 seconds. Can you hold it or do you get tired?

Test performed in sitting

  • Sit up tall in good posture. Put your hands on your head and bring your elbows back. Hold for 90 seconds. Do you have any pain or fatigue?
  • Straighten your knee in the sitting position. Do you feel a pull? In that position, point your toes towards your nose.
  • Cross your foot over your opposite knee. Sitting in good posture, lean forwards and bring your belly button forwards. Do you feel a pull?
  • Slouch in the chair and try to touch your toe with your hand. Do you feel pain or pull? How far can you reach.

Interpreting your Score

If you score is 30/30, you are in great shape. If your score is less than 20/30, consult a physiotherapist. If your symptoms are less than 15/30, consult a physician.

The Twist

After completing the test, monitor your symptoms over the next 24 hours. If your symptoms increase over the next 24 hours, consult your physiotherapist. It is normal to have delayed muscles soreness if you have completed moderate activity (i.e. completed 5 km run). It is not normal to have delayed soreness with a self-assessment scan examination.

If during or after the test, you experience 10/10 pain or have atypical or referred symptoms, consult a physician and physiotherapist. If you are currently seeing a health care provider, complete the self-assessment on a daily basis to monitor your progress.

If any of the tasks are difficult during the self-assessment, caution should be taken with corresponding activities.


MVA Care Protocol - Understanding the Details


Motor Vehicle Accident


You've just been in a Motor Vehicle Accident!

Your insurance adjuster informs you that you get 21 treatments including: Physiotherapy, Massage, Acupuncture, and Chiropractor.

You think to yourself that's great, that should help me get better, so you book an appointment with a Physiotherapist…only to be informed that you only qualify for 14 visits.

What gives?

Physiotherapy - 21 Treatments vs. 14 Visits

Depending on the situation, after the first seven treatments with your physiotherapist, the motor vehicle legislation indicates that, when more than one body part is being treated it counts as two units per visit.

Essentially, this means that each visit, after the first seven, count as two treatments. (First 7 visits = 7 treatments; Remaining 7 visits = 2 treatments each)

What if you just want Massage Therapy?

After your physiotherapy visit, as recommended by a Doctor, you may think that getting massage for the remainder of your treatments would be the route to go instead since they are also covered. It would be more relaxing and the massage therapist can do all the work!

Not the best idea! 

You may come find that if that’s all you did for care, and your injury still wasn’t better, further treatment would probably be declined since you were not an active participant in a path to recovery.

Your physiotherapist is on your team and they advocate for you!

n some cases, after completing approved treatment, you may still struggle with injuries. Your physiotherapist can fill out a form and communicate with your insurance adjuster to request an extension (further treatment). A typical extension is 12 visits over 8 weeks.

The extension may consist of treatment to work on areas of weakness, and the physiotherapist may guide you through the appropriate exercises given for further strengthening. Consistency is the key to faster healing and to exercise every 12 hours.

Why do physiotherapists use your private insurance?

According to the Motor Vehicles Act, your insurance may cover additional costs secondary to my private insurance (e.g. Blue Cross).

What happens if your approved treatments have ended and you are still not fully recovered?

Your physiotherapist can write a report to your doctor with recommendations for diagnostic testing, (e.g. X-ray) and referral to a specialist based on those findings.


Road To Recovery - Crystal's Car Accident Pain Story

Crystal was on her way to work one crisp, sunny morning last January. It was lightly snowing as the sound of her squeaking windshield blades caught her attention. It was going to be an exciting day! Crystal was a gym teacher and proud of her volleyball team’s accomplishments. They were preparing to go to the city championships.

A loud bang, then silence…

All of a sudden someone was knocking on her driver’s side window, wildly shouting to see if she was okay. Crystal’s ears were still ringing as she struggled to move her arms. The impact caused injuries to her head, neck, chest and arms. It’s not clear why, but her hands were driven into the steering wheel with great force resulting in debilitating pain!

After getting checked out at the hospital, Crystal was faced with the overwhelming stress of the medical and legal processes ahead. She needed help to navigate the insurance system dealing with forms that were hard to understand, insurance adjusters, doctors, and therapists.

Support – after the accident

Crystal ached all over and needed assistance with pretty much everything! Routine day-to-day activities were difficult or impossible to carry out. Everything from putting on her coat to preparing meals became a real chore.

Not knowing where to turn, Crystal’s family Doctor suggested she go for physiotherapy. The thought of no longer being alone with the daunting process that now consumed her life nudged her to make the call and book an appointment.

I’m so glad I did because the treatments really helped strengthen me, restore my range of motion and improved healing time. The support and care I received was amazing not to mention the knowledge and understanding I gained. They were with me every step of the way!

Navigating the system – made easy

Crystal received the compassion, care and support she needed after struggling by herself with the insurance company, while her injuries worsened. The care coordinator explained the insurance process, helped complete and submit the forms, and worked on getting the necessary approvals.

The physiotherapist listened to Crystal’s concerns and evaluated her function, pain, and the severity of her injuries. An appropriate treatment program was put in place and prolotherapy was arranged, to help relieve pain, as Crystal gained strength and mobility.

Crystal is still receiving treatment for her injuries and very hopeful she will be able to resume her volleyball coaching duties one day soon!

Road to Recovery:

Following your Motor Vehicle Accident - Doctor Lawrence Matrick (originally from Winnipeg) … addresses the personal aspects of one's life that have been affected by their injuries - anxieties, sleep disorder, relationships…and describes some of the psychological difficulties that trauma can have on an accident victim.

If you have been in a recent injury and are unsure on how to proceed, consider AlbertaPT. AlbertaPT clinic's comprehensive motor vehicle therapy program may be the solution you are looking for. 

AlbertaPT's MVA program (we call MVC Program) is specific for patients that have been involved in a car accident and have sustained injuries due to the accident. We use a multidisciplinary approach to injury management that includes our physiotherapists working alongside a team of physical medicine specialists to provide a thorough evaluation of your injuries. Give us a call today.

Dr. Andrew Kim

Dr. Andrew Kim


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