Active vs. Passive Physical Therapy

About 6 million passenger cars are involved in vehicle crashes in the United States each year. Even minor fender benders can cause bodily injury, and physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process.

As a leader in auto accident care, Dr. Robert Mitchell, MD and our team at Tulsa Accident Care Center provide a full range of comprehensive therapies to help you recover. Active and passive treatment are two approaches to physical therapy. 

Your auto accident rehabilitation team puts together a recovery plan and determines which of these approaches is right for you. Many injuries benefit from a mix of active and passive physical therapy. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, here’s what you should know about these two treatments.

Active physical therapy

Active physical therapy involves exercises that you purposely engage in and exert physical effort to carry out. You use your muscles to go through a range of exercises designed to help strengthen your muscles and increase range of motion. 

Examples of active physical therapy exercises include:

Active physical therapy exercises prevent muscle atrophy and strengthen the signals to your muscles. This helps restore muscle strength. 

When active physical therapy is beneficial

Many auto accident injuries respond well to active physical therapy. When you sustain an injury in a car crash, your muscles, tendons, and other musculoskeletal components can weaken. Pain, limited range of motion, and abnormal sensations such as numbness and tingling are common in car accidents injuries.

Active exercises help you gain more strength and mobility in the injured area to restore function. Ask your physical therapist which approach is right for you.

Passive exercises

Passive exercises focus on improving your range of motion. You don’t use any physical effort to go through these exercises. Instead, your physical therapist moves your muscles and joints through the exercises using gentle movements.

When passive physical therapy is helpful

Depending on your injury, your physical therapist may start you off with passive exercises to loosen tight muscles and improve joint mobility before transitioning to active exercises. Even though you won’t exert any physical effort on your end, the movements involved in passive exercise still provide significant benefits.

For instance, passive exercise movements stimulate and improve blood flow to the injured area, which helps the area recover. Consistent, repeated therapeutic movements help rewire and strengthen the connections between your brain and the muscles in the injured area.

While your physical therapist is moving your body for you, it’s still necessary to focus on the movement and engage your focus. The brain and body have a two-way connection, with one affecting the other. If you’re distracted from the movement, you won’t obtain optimal benefits.

Recovering from auto accident injuries

Both passive and active physical therapy help ease pain in the injured area. Your physical therapist may give you active exercises to perform at home in addition to the therapeutic exercises you perform at your physical therapy sessions.

Physical therapy should never hurt. It’s important to communicate with your physical therapist if you experience any pain going through the prescribed movements. Depending on the nature of your injury, you can expect to spend six to eight weeks in physical therapy.

Rely on the Tulsa Accident Care Center team to help you get the care you need, when you need it most. For more information, call to schedule a visit at our office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or request an appointment online today. 

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