Car / Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Injury Physiotherapy

How to get help for your car accident injury

Car accident or motor vehicle accident (MVA) injuries are one of the most frustrating injuries because they come out of nowhere. One day you are fine and the next day you are looking for someone to treat your pain. Here are some of the things you should know if you’ve been injured in a car accident and are looking for a physiotherapist. I set up this page to guide you through the process, which can be confusing at first glance.

Where to start

Your car accident was...

Less than 10 days ago

If your accident was less than 10 days ago you can call and make an appointment for physiotherapy and I'll deal with your insurance company later. Just download and complete the AB-1 from below.

More than 10 days ago

If your accident was more than 10 days ago, call your car insurance company before you make your physical therapy appointment just to make sure you are covered.

If you were injured in a collision in Alberta, you can access benefits coverage regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident.

You can choose your own physiotherapist, you don't have to book with the one your insurance company recommends.

The benefits you receive depend on the type of injury you have

If your injury is a sprain, strain or a whiplash associated with disorder I or II , you can call a physiotherapist directly to make an appointment. You don’t need prior approval of the insurance company if you provide notice of your claim and choose to follow the protocols. You can do this by sending them an AB1: Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim form (more on the protocols and forms below). Our clinic is able to bill the car insurance company directly.

For all other injuries

Submit receipts for eligible expenses not covered by Alberta Healthcare Insurance to your extended healthcare benefits coverage provider (e.g. Blue Cross, health spending account or similar extended health care benefits plan) for reimbursement.


If the following applies you may submit invoices for eligible expenses to your automobile insurer for payment.

  • You do not have extended health care benefits coverage.
  • Your extended health care benefits coverage is exhausted.
  • Your extended health care benefits coverage does not meet the full cost of eligible expenses.

Most common injuries in motor vehicle accidents

Neck injuries
Head injuries
Back injuries
Neck injuries


Whiplash is the most common injury associated with car accidents. Usually, when your car is struck from behind your head undergoes a severe acceleration and rapid deceleration which causes strains and sprains of the muscles and ligaments in your neck. Typically, whiplash is not a life threatening injury and the most common symptoms are:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaw pain
  • Arm pain and weakness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Ringing in the ear and back pain

How can Physiotherapy help?

Previously, it was well thought that a soft cervical collar (immobilization) of the neck for several weeks would aide in recovery. However, recent studies have shown that physical therapy can provide much more reliable and rapid recovery (Schnabel et. al. 2004). Early exercise therapy is far better than the collar therapy in reducing pain intensity and disability. Early range of motion exercises administered by a physiotherapist can help you quickly wean off a cervical collar and develop strength and reduce pain in your neck.

Head injuries

Jaw injury

Whiplash can also cause jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ) to dysfunction. TMJ dysfunction can also be caused by a direct blow to the head such as the windshield or dashboard during the accident. It can start off with some pain, clicking and popping noises when you open and close your jaw, and can worsen if not properly evaluated and treated. Left untreated it can lead to headaches, ear and facial pain along with difficulty eating.


During a car accident you may also experience a mild traumatic brain injury due to a direct blow to the head or an indirect blow to your body. You don’t always have to bleed or swell to get a concussion. Concussion symptoms can vary from person to person, however symptoms such as loss of consciousness, severe headaches, seizures, unusual behaviour, weakness, numbness, slurred speech, vomiting and inability to remember events leading up to the accident are all signs that may need immediate medical attention.

How can physiotherapy help?

Following injury to your TMJ, there’s the risk of forming scar tissue and muscle tightness. Performing any physical movements of the jaw can make joint problems worse, and need to be guided by an experienced therapist. I will will provide you with exercises that strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and range of motion. Also, I will help you improve your posture and correct your jaw alignment. While I don’t provide treatment for concussion I can recommend a physiotherapist in your area who I think will be able to help you.

Back injuries

Your back can also undergo a rapid extension and flexion that can cause strains, fractures, disk herniation and prolapse. Even though the back doesn’t undergo the same amount of extension and flexion that your neck does, it still produces significant strain in your back muscles causing pain and loss of mobility.

The tremendous amount of compression that the spine withstands in accidents can cause the soft cushion (disk) in between your vertebrae to bulge out and prolapse where the disk irritates your nerves. A herniated (prolapsed) doesn’t always give you symptoms of pain in your lower back, it can also show symptoms of

Loss of control of bladder/bowels, numbness in genital area and impotence (in men)
Numbness or pins and needles feeling in one or both of arms/legs
Pain running down one or both of arms/legs
Weakness involving one or both arms/legs

How can physiotherapy help?

Following a thorough assessment and diagnosis of your lower back pain, I will provide you with a treatment plan that includes flexibility and strengthening exercises, ice/heat, manual therapy, electrical stimulation and possibly acupuncture. The goal is to return your lower back to its normal range of motion and strength. Spinal manipulation can also be used if I deem it necessary to increase soft tissue and spinal mobility.

The forms

AB-1: Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim
  • If your car accident was less than 10 days ago you must fill out a form called AB-1. Download here. Once you send this form to your car insurance company you’ll be considered “In protocol”. If you are “In protocol” our clinic can automatically bill your invoice to your car insurance on your behalf and you won’t have to pay at your visit.
  • If your car accident was more than 10 day ago you might be considered “Outside protocol”. This is not a problem, you can still get treatment, but you will need to contact your car insurance company first. They will determine if direct billing of your invoice is applicable for your case.

After sending your AB-1, they will send you further information regarding your policy, claim numbers and your adjuster’s fax number. As soon as you receive a claim number, go ahead and book an assessment with me, and I’ll be able to get you on your way to recovery. When you come in for your initial physiotherapy assessment we will ask you for that information, so bring your completed AB-1 form with you. Please see my page about what to expect from your first physio appointment.

AB-2: Treatment plan
Once I complete your assessment I will fill out an AB-2 form and ask you to sign it. An AB-2 form is then faxed over to your car insurance company and will outline the treatment plan and goals for your recovery.
AB-3: Progress report
When your allocated sessions are used up, this form is completed by me, usually when more therapy is required. Approval of the extension for treatment is then determined by your car insurance company.
AB-4: Concluding report
When it’s time to conclude your allotted sessions, I will complete an AB4 for you after I reassessment to report on your progress, residual symptoms, signs, prognosis, details of exercise program, and key findings on the last visit. AB4 forms can also be completed in cases where other ongoing treatment is needed when the patient is discharged.

If you still have any questions feel free to contact me

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Located in CSA Physiotherapy 51 Ave

10397 51 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6H 0K4


Clinic Hours

Monday 7:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Tuesday 7:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday 7:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Thursday 7:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday 7:30 AM - 8:00PM
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed