BONAVISTA PHYSICAL THERAPY  |  739 Lake Bonavista Dr. SE, Calgary  |  Lower Level of Bonavista Medical Clinic

Recover from a Motor Vehicle Accident with Early Treatment

Have you suffered a whiplash, neck or back injury in Calgary as a result of a motor vehicle accident (MVA) or collision (MVC)? 

Research shows that an EARLY and active approach to recovery is the fastest, most effective way for healing to occur. 

Injuries following MVC’s can be complex and include (but not limited to): neck and upper back pain, TMJ or jaw pain, concussion, headaches, shoulder and lower back pain. 

Our team is committed to using the most up to date evidence-based approach in managing your injury. We thoroughly assess and diagnose the problem, what stage of healing you are at and what intervention is appropriate for that stage of healing. 

Whether this has happened recently or you’ve been dealing with neck or spinal pain from an accident in the past, there are some things you should know. 


What is Whiplash? 

Whiplash or WAD (Whiplash Associated Disorder) is a term used to describe a neck injury caused by the head suddenly accelerating and decelerating or “whipping” back and forth causing painful injury and damage to the joints, muscles, ligaments and other connecting tissues of the spine. 

Whiplash most commonly occurs in car accidents however any time there are sudden forces through the neck a whiplash injury can occur. Whiplash can occur in sports such as hockey, rugby, football and soccer or even a slip and fall! 

Depending on the severity of the injury, pain and symptoms can be felt immediately or even a few days later. WAD injuries are categorized in the following way: 

  • WAD I: Neck pain, tenderness but normal movement
  • WAD II: Neck pain and stiffness with point tenderness and loss of movement 
  • WAD III: Neck pain, reduced mobility and neurological signs (weakness, sensory and or reflex changes) 
  • WAD IV: Neck pain with fracture or dislocation 


Have your whiplash assessed, contact our clinic 


Should I get Treatment for my Whiplash? 

Research shows early intervention (even for minor symptoms) results in better long term outcomes and can prevent chronic pain. 

No matter how minor you may think your injury is, it is important that you be evaluated as soon as possible by a trained health professional like a physiotherapist. Even if you think your injury is minor and you are able to “ignore” it, we encourage you to get checked right away. Don’t make the mistake of letting it go for a week or two before you seek treatment because the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to treat. 


Your Path to Recovery Starts with an Assessment 

On your first appointment, your therapist will spend the time necessary to take a detailed history of your current and past medical history, perform a biomechanical, musculoskeletal and neurological assessment. 

Once a complete picture of your injury is understood, we will be able to guide you through the recovery process using up to date evidence-based treatment. 

There are many things YOU can do to improve your recovery and your therapist will make sure you have a good understanding so that you can get better as soon as possible. 

Return to activity is key to recovery. Our team has extensive experience in movement therapy and evidence shows the earlier you can start moving the better. The human body has an amazing capacity for healing and with appropriate management early on, most people recover fully and get back to their normal activities. 

Physiotherapists are movement specialists and can assist in getting you back to your important activities. We have multiple strategies of assisting you in pain reduction and helping you understand what activities are best suited to your stage of healing. We will assess where your limitations are and provide an appropriate rehabilitation and exercise program. 

You can expect to get ergonomic and postural advice so that unnecessary strain on your neck can be avoided. Targeted exercises for your exact condition will help reduce your pain and stiffness. We will provide you with a home program so that you can self-manage and optimize your healing. 


Who pays for treatment?

The Government of Alberta recognizes the research that supports the value of early treatment following motor vehicle collisions. Alberta government legislation requires an assessment by a primary care practitioner (Physiotherapist, medical doctor or chiropractor) within 10 days of the accident. 

This legislation stipulates that all whiplash injuries are entitled to an assessment. Minor injuries (WAD I and WAD II) are entitled to funded physiotherapy for up to 3 months following the accident. 

The intention is to get people to PT early, get moving and avoid chronic pain. If it has been more than 10 days, don’t worry, insurance companies will often still cover the costs of rehab. 


If you’re not sure, call us and ask


Where do I have to go for treatment? 

The Diagnostic and Treatment Protocol (DTPR) legislation in Alberta supports patient choice. Your minor injury will be fully paid for by your vehicle insurance at the clinic of your choice. 

Our legislation stipulates that minor injuries (WAD I and WADII) following MVC’s will be covered no matter where you choose to receive care

We believe in patient centred care – we work ONLY for you and therefore do not sign agreements with insurance companies as we don’t want to confuse who we are working for. 

In keeping with current legislation, we take care of starting your injury claim and direct billing your insurance company. For minor injuries reported within 10 days of accident there will be no out of pocket expense to you. This ensures no financial barriers to receiving necessary and early care. 

As a well established clinic with an excellent reputation in Calgary, we get many word-of-mouth referrals, family and friend referrals as well as referrals from local GP’s. 

As a local owner-operated clinic, we will not likely get any referrals from your insurance company who may be located outside the province. But rest assured, your minor injury will be fully paid for by your vehicle insurance at the clinic of your choice. 


Will I Recover? 

Any sudden forces to any part of our bodies can result in strains or sprains. Whiplash is a strain/sprain of the spinal structures and follows the same healing pathway as any other musculoskeletal injury we might experience. 

The number and severity of symptoms following a whiplash injury varies depending on multiple factors. The human body has an amazing ability to heal and with appropriate management early on, your neck pain should recover fully and you can expect to get back to all usual activities. 

Whiplash has a high recovery rate within 3 months of treatment but it is highly variable between individuals. 


What Can I Do to Speed Up my Recovery? 

Keep Calm! Even though at first, the pain and symptoms can be quite severe and debilitating, remember that this is normal and not something to panic about. 

Studies show that high fear, anxiety and panicky feelings can actually increase the sensation of pain so try and stay calm. It is normal to feel pain and discomfort during the healing process. 


Keep moving! 

Multiple studies have shown that people who try to resume normal activity as soon as possible recover much quicker than people who markedly alter or reduce their daily activities. Better recovery will occur in individuals who maintain a healthy, active routine. 

You may need to slightly modify your usual work or recreational activities during the first few weeks of the injury. Keep in mind that pain during this process is normal and does not necessarily mean further injury. 

Gradually increase your participation in activity and exercise levels as you are able so that you can return to your regular sports, hobbies and workload. 


Get Checked! 

It is important, no matter how minor you may think your injury is that you be evaluated as soon as possible by a properly trained health professional like a physiotherapist. Even if you think your injury is minor and you are able to “ignore” it, we encourage you to get checked right away. Don’t make the mistake of letting it go for a week or two before you seek treatment because the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to treat. 


Get Great Physiotherapy! 

  1. Active not passive! 

There are many passive treatments at our disposal (heat, ice TENS, needles, manual therapy, ultrasound, laser, massage, ointments) but without a strong focus on active treatment (Movement, posture, stretching, strengthening) our injured tissues will not be able to cope with the daily load of our busy lives. The treatment should focus on the exercise component not the passive component. 

  1. Measured progress! 

We use a number of measurable outcomes and key factors to monitor progress – not just a pain score. We are one of the few clinics in Alberta tracking your progress (and ours) against an international data base. We can tell you on day one what you can expect your recovery to look like based on over 15 million care episodes in the database. If progress is not as expected, we will be alerted and get you on the right track early on. 

  1. Ease of billing

Our office staff are experienced in dealing with the paperwork and forms needed to file a claim for insurance following motor vehicle accident. We communicate directly with your insurance to alleviate some of the stress involved in filing a claim. 

We direct bill your insurance so you can avoid out of pocket expenses. 


When should I be concerned? 

It is not uncommon to experience headaches following a neck injury but severe and progressive headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, memory loss, ringing in the ears, or slurred speech will need to be carefully evaluated. 

If you hit your head or lost consciousness during the accident, you may be suffering from a concussion and your physiotherapist can assess you for this. Make sure you monitor your symptoms, if you have progressively worsening tingling, numbness or progressive weakness in your arms or legs you may have some nerve compression which will need to be properly assessed by a registered professional. 


Self Help 

  1. Avoid slouching or prolonged positions. Inflamed tissues tend to tighten up quickly so changing positions frequently can help. Slouching puts unnecessary stress on already strained tissues. Support yourself properly with a cushion or lumbar roll. 
  1. Rest: you will need more rest breaks initially (up to 7 days). Your head is heavy! Lie down for 15 min or so a few times a day to take the load off your spine. 
  1. Ice for the first few days – 10-15 min while lying down with proper support on your neck. 
  1. Heat or ice after day 3 following injury depending on personal preference. 15 min at a time as needed. 
  1. Medication: be careful due to potential side effects but ask your pharmacist or doctor about Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDS (advil, aleve, ibuprofen). Limited use of these medications early on may help with pain. 
  1. Light exercise like a short walk can help loosen up your body. 
  1. Relaxation or meditation can help calm your mind and your muscles. 
  1. Avoid negative thoughts and try to stay positive, be patient: all injuries take some time to heal.


Take Home Message: 

Normally, following a whiplash injury, the damaged tissues have repaired themselves within 8 – 12 weeks of the injury. 

If you continue to experience neck pain, headaches or other symptoms beyond the 3 month point, it may be part of the normal recovery time depending on the nature and extent of your injury. 

The focus of the treatment in this case should be on active rehabilitation rather than being dependent on passive treatments. In a smaller percentage of the cases, however, ongoing pain and symptoms could indicate that your problem requires more advanced treatment.

Start your path to recovery, get in touch for an assessment 

Track Your Recovery!

We have some of the fastest recovery times across North America:

Faster than:

of clinics for
hip injuries

of clinics for
knee injuries

of clinics for
foot/ankle injuries

of clinics for
back/lumbar injuries

Over the past 3 years, we’ve compared our stats to 16.9 million assessments and 19,600 clinicians in over 4,200 clinics. Find out more with Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO).

Learn more about how we’re
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