Accident Care Chiropractic logo.
Chiropractic Blog

Exercises & Stretches for Common Auto Injuries

Published Date: 
March 18, 2024
Man exercising in physical therapy with female chiropractor

Recovering from an auto accident? Explore targeted exercises and stretches for auto injuries like whiplash, back pain, and sprains.

Mending on the Move - From Whiplash Relief to Ankle Support: Targeted Exercises and Stretches for Auto Injuries

Auto accidents are one of the most common ways people experience injuries. For many, minor accidents cause only mild injuries, if any at all. Unfortunately, though, accidents can cause serious injuries that upend your life and require a lengthy healing process.

Targeted exercises and stretches are often an important part of the recovery process. Working with a healthcare professional ensures that the exercises you include in your recovery routine are safe and effective for treating your injuries.

Common Auto Injuries and Recovery Exercises

Car accidents can cause a wide variety of injuries. The following are the most common motor vehicle accident injuries and the most effective exercises for helping you recover:


The best exercises for whiplash focus on improving mobility, strength, and stability without straining injured tissues. Start with gentle, controlled movements and gradually progress as tolerated.

Some of the best exercises for whiplash include:

Neck Stretches

Perform gentle stretches to increase flexibility and range of motion in the neck muscles. Examples include neck tilts, side bends, and rotations.

Neck Strengthening

Strengthening exercises help stabilize the neck and support proper posture. Examples include neck isometrics (resisting against your hand in different directions), neck flexion and extension exercises using resistance bands, and chin tucks.

Postural/Shoulder and Upper Back

Strengthening the neck muscles can help reduce strain and improve overall posture. Exercises such as shoulder blade squeezes, rows, and shoulder shrugs can be beneficial.

Back Pain

If your accident has left you with back pain, exercises targeting your core muscles and the lumbar and thoracic regions can help alleviate discomfort, improve flexibility, and promote overall spine health.

Some of the best rehabilitation exercises for back pain include:

Core Strengthening Exercises

  • Plank: Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and toes on the ground. Keep your body straight from head to heels, engaging your core muscles. Hold for 20-30 seconds and gradually increase the duration as you build strength.
  • Bird Dog: Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward while maintaining a neutral spine. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and switch sides.
  • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet lifted off the ground, leaning back slightly to engage your core. Hold a weight or medicine ball with both hands and rotate your torso from side to side, touching the weight to the floor beside you.

Stretches for Lumbar and Thoracic Regions

  • Cat-Cow Stretch: Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back and lift your chest toward the ceiling (cow pose), then exhale as you round your spine and tuck your chin to your chest (cat pose). Repeat for several breaths.
  • Child's Pose: Start on your hands and knees, then sit back onto your heels, stretching your arms forward and lowering your forehead to the floor. Hold the stretch, focusing on relaxing your lower back and lengthening your spine.
  • Thoracic Extension Stretch: Sit on the floor with a foam roller positioned horizontally behind your mid-back. Support your head with your hands, then gently lean back over the foam roller, allowing it to roll up and down your spine. Focus on extending your upper back and opening up your chest.

Sprains and Strains (ankle, knee, etc.)

Sprains and strains are incredibly common injuries for accident victims. Some of the best exercises for recovering from sprains and strains include:

Range-of-Motion Exercises

  • Pendulum Stretch: Stand or sit with the unaffected arm supported on a surface. Let your injured arm hang freely, then gently swing it forward, backward, and side to side in a pendulum motion.
  • Passive Stretching: Use your unaffected arm or a towel to gently stretch the injured muscle or joint into a pain-free range of motion. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat several times.

Isometric Exercises

Perform static contractions of the muscles surrounding the injured area without moving the joint.

Resistance Band Exercises

Use resistance bands to perform low-impact strengthening exercises for the affected muscles and joints.

Balance Training

  • Single-Leg Stance: Stand on one leg while keeping the opposite foot slightly off the ground. Focus on maintaining your balance and stability for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.
  • Balance Board Exercises: Use a balance board or wobble board to challenge your balance and proprioception. Perform exercises such as standing or squatting on the board while maintaining stability.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries resulting from car accidents can vary in severity, from mild strains to more serious conditions such as rotator cuff tears or dislocations. Regardless of the specific injury, incorporating rotator cuff strengthening exercises, mobility exercises, and proper posture alignment into your rehabilitation program can help promote healing, reduce pain, and improve function.

Some of the best rotator cuff injury recovery exercises include:

Strengthening Exercises

  • External Rotation: Use a resistance band or light dumbbell to perform external rotation exercises. Start with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and your forearm parallel to the ground. Rotate your forearm outward against resistance, focusing on engaging the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Internal Rotation: Use a resistance band or cable machine to perform internal rotation exercises. Start with your elbow bent at your side and your forearm across your abdomen. Rotate your forearm inward against resistance, maintaining control throughout the movement.

Shoulder Circles

  • Stand or sit with your arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly circle your shoulders forward and backward in a controlled motion, focusing on maintaining a full range of motion.
  • Wall Slides: Stand with your back against a wall and your arms bent at 90 degrees, palms facing forward. Slide your arms up the wall as far as possible without pain, then slowly lower them back down.

Proper Posture Alignment

  • Scapular Retraction: Sit or stand with your shoulders relaxed and your spine straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them, then release.
  • Thoracic Extension: Sit or stand tall with your hands clasped behind your head. Gently arch your upper back backward, opening up your chest and shoulders.

Other Potential Injuries

Other common injuries linked to car accidents include injuries to the wrist, elbow, and hip. Regardless of your injuries or combination of injuries, it's best to seek professional guidance when creating a recovery exercise plan.

General Exercises and Stretching Principles

Several general tips can help you prevent injuries when beginning a new exercise or stretching routine:

Start Slow

It's best to ease into an exercise routine, especially when your body is still healing from an auto accident injury. Over time, you can increase the intensity and duration of the exercises.

Listen to Your Body

This is one of the most essential tips for anyone beginning an exercise program, but it's essential when exercising for recovery. There's no need to push yourself – you aren't in training or competing to win anything. Tune into the signals you're getting from your body and stop if you experience pain.

Maintain Proper Form and Technique

A lot of rehabilitation exercises look simple, but if done wrong, they can lead to further injury. This is why it's essential to work with an experienced professional. In some cases, they can show you how to do the exercises correctly using proper form and technique, and then you'll be able to do the routine at home on your own.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Like all exercise routines, you'll want to warm up and cool down. This helps you avoid injury and prevents you from feeling worse a few hours after exercising.

Additional Tips and Resources

Recovering from an auto accident can be difficult. Depending on the injuries, performing your daily routine tasks can take a great deal of effort. It's important to remember to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle, even if these things are more challenging after an accident. This ensures optimal recovery and supports your body's natural ability to heal.

It's also important to seek professional guidance from a physical therapist or certified personal trainer. They can design a personalized therapeutic exercise plan that's ideal for your body and specifically addresses your injuries. Over time, these plans can be modified as you recover.

In addition to exercise and stretching, you might like access to additional online resources or support groups to provide information, motivation, and support. For example:

In addition to following a personalized exercise plan, it's also essential to maintain as positive an attitude as you can. The days, weeks, and months after an auto accident can be challenging. If needed, reach out to healthcare professionals for support and/or counseling.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

How Can We Help You?

Let’s Find a Clinic Near You!
Accident Care Chiropractic logo.

© 2024 Accident Care Chiropractic | Hablamos Español

Located in: North Portland, NE Portland, SE Portland, Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Salem, South Salem, Keizer,
Clackamas, Woodburn, McMinnville, Vancouver, Hazel Dell, East Vancouver, Bend, Pasco.

We Specialize in Car Accident Treatment & Recovery

Home | About Us | Testimonials | Blog | Sitemap | Privacy Policy | Services | Locations | Contact Us

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram