Auto Accident Injury: Physical Therapy the best Treatment option Neck, Shoulder, and Low Back Pain

Image of two damaged cars after an accident, highlighting our physical therapy clinic's services for auto accident recovery.

Auto Accident Injury: Physical Therapy the best Treatment option Neck, Shoulder, and Low Back Pain

By Dr. John Mishock, PT, DPT, DC 

Five million Americans yearly suffer from whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) secondary to motor vehicle accidents. These accidents cost over $498 billion in wage loss, medical expenses, vehicle damage, and employer costs. (NSC Injury, 2022) Whiplash-associated disorders occur when there is a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head and neck during motor vehicle collisions. Whiplash-associated disorders disrupt the daily lives of adults worldwide and are associated with considerable pain, suffering, disability, and costs. More than 85% of patients experience neck pain and headache. Others will have shoulder, low back, and hip pain. In some cases, the auto accident can cause mild traumatic brain injury, leading to dizziness, vertigo, balance issues, and short-term memory loss. (Trott et al. J Pain, 2009)


Studies using high-speed cameras and sophisticated crash dummies have determined that rear-impact car accidents cause the lower cervical vertebrae (lower bones in the neck) to be forced into a position of hyperextension (movement of the vertebrae backward). In contrast, the upper cervical vertebrae (upper bones in the neck) move rapidly into hyperflexion (movement of the vertebrae forward). During the accident, this traumatic movement leads to an abnormal S-shape curve of the cervical spine. This abnormal motion causes damage to the soft tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, facet capsules, muscles). The WAD can cause affect the lower back and shoulders as the seat belt restraint causes rotational stress to the torso and spine. These insults during an auto accident can lead to symptoms of WAD.


The most common symptoms related to WAD include:

– Neck pain and stiffness
– Headaches
– Shoulder pain
– Dizziness/visual changes
– Fatigue
– Jaw pain
– Arm pain/weakness
– Low back pain
– Numbness and tingling

Recent evidence has shown that physical therapy may be the best choice to decrease pain, improve motion, and lower costs secondary to whiplash-associated disorders. Physical therapists are doctorate-level trained health care providers who will perform a complete musculoskeletal history and examination to determine the root cause of the low back pain.

The physical therapist will assess posture and body mechanics and recommend ergonomic changes at home and work. They will provide hands-on manual therapy treatments (techniques done by physical therapists using their hands precisely to relax muscles in spasms, lengthen tight muscles, improve circulation, and optimize scar tissue development and healing.

Physical therapy modalities (cold, heat, electricity, ultrasound) are utilized early in the treatment to reduce pain and promote healing. Active exercise and functional retraining programs are instituted early to help prevent fear avoidance of pain, improve optimal tissue healing, and return the patient to the highest level of function. The physical therapist will educate the patient on preventing future pain episodes through home exercise programs and patient education on body mechanics and posture. Substantial evidence supports the early use of the physical therapy treatment (the first week following injury) in reducing pain, returning the patient to work and life, and reducing health care costs. (Sterling et al. J Phys 2014)

The scientific evidence clearly shows that using physical therapy in combination with standard medical care would be the best choice to decrease pain, improve function, and prevent chronicity in individuals who have injuries associated with auto accidents.

We can help!

If pain or limited function limits you from doing the activities you enjoy, call Mishock Physical Therapy for a Free Phone Consultation (610)327-2600.  Email your questions to Visit our website to learn more about our treatment philosophy, our physical therapy staff, and our 7 convenient locations in Gilbertsville, Skippack, Phoenixville, Boyertown, Limerick, Pottstown, and Steiner Medical at

Schedule your visit by calling 610-327-2600 or visiting this link:

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Visit our website to read informative articles, meet our physical therapy staff, and learn about our treatment philosophy. Email your questions to

Dr. Mishock is one of only a few clinicians with doctorate-level degrees in both physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of Pennsylvania. He has authored two books; “Fundamental Training Principles: Essential Knowledge for Building the Elite Athlete”, and “The Rubber Arm; Using Science to Increase Pitch Control, Improve Velocity, and Prevent Elbow and Shoulder Injury” both can be bought on Amazon and

New patient scheduling: 610-327-2600