Treatment Guidelines

ICBC Physiotherapy Treatment Information

If you have been injured in a car accident and covered under ICBC, we have put together some information that we hope you find useful in your journey to recovery.

Common injuries following a motor vehicle accident (MVA)

Our physiotherapists have experience in treating whiplash injury


  • Sudden acceleration-deceleration, head and neck suddenly move in opposite direction.
  • Sudden traction / stretch of soft tissue, neuro-vascular structures, followed by compression of neck joints and soft tissue structures.

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Neck pain & stiffness
  • Loss of neck/upper back range of motion
  • Soft tissue tenderness
  • Sometimes : tingling, numbness, shooting pain down arm to hands
  • Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep
  • Morning stiffness of neck, upper back, between shoulder blades region

  • GREAT! The earlier you get moving, the better the prognosis and return to function and your life!
  • Get moving (within available ranges) and see your Physiotherapist for treatment and guidance!
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tension headaches can be relieved if you get a proper physiotherapy treatment

Tension Headache

  • Neck and upper back soft tissue injury
  • Stretch or compression of soft tissues due to sudden neck/ head movements
  • Muscle spasm following an injury

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Mild to moderate, diffuse dull headache that is often described as if there is a tight band around the head, or base of skull, etc.
  • Tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder / upper back muscles.
  • Tightness or pressure sensation on forehead muscles, on the sides and back of the head.

  • Good! The earlier you get assessed and get proper treatment, the better the prognosis and return to pre-accident function and ability.
  • Soft tissue pain relief techniques, mobilization of stiff joints, gentle movements within nonsymptom-increasing range, are some of the best way to start. Contact a Physiotherapist to get your rehab journey started.
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If you need an ICBC physiotherapist to help recover from the concussion

ConcussionWorse injuries are usually reported when people were not using seatbelts.

Cause: similar to whiplash, concussion may occur due to
  • A sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head due to change in direction of movement, such as a car crash. Impact does not have to occur at head.
  • An impact to the head and neck or upper body that change direction of movement of brain & nerves of spinal cord.
  • Mechanism for concussion often occur in sports, such as Rugby, hockey, football, etc.

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty with concentrating activities such as studying and working
  • Difficulty with activities that requires eye gazing such as reading, watching TV, scrolling on cellphone
  • Memory loss
  • Light/noise sensitivity

Prognosis: Very good and individualized treatment plan is guided by severity of symptoms and injuries.
  • ‘Relative Rest’ and progressive loading is a good way to start. Complete rest = BAD.
  • Limiting some brain activity in the beginning and getting some rest is a good way to start.
  • Gradually, your physiotherapist will introduce light activities and tasks that do not increase your symptoms, making sure that you can return to previous activities safely.
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You might be suffering neck pain after a car accident or overstretch.

Neck painCommon after whiplash and neck strains.

Cause: overstretch or compression of soft tissues followed by muscle spasm

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Tenderness on the neck and back of skull area on palpation
  • Neck muscles spasms
  • Reduced neck range of motion
  • Stiffness or a heavy feeling on the neck or head region
  • Sometimes: pain that moves down from your neck to shoulder and upper back area
  • Sometimes: neck pain + headache

Prognosis: Also great! The sooner you seek professional rehab advice, the faster you can return to pre-accident activities.
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ICBC provides physiotherapy treatments for passengers and drivers including lower back pain

Low back pain

  • Rapid jerky thrusting movement of the body in various directions
  • Driver - ‘brake leg’ : force transmitted up ‘brake’ leg with impact
  • Passenger - ‘dashboard injury’ : force transmitted up leg(s) through knee

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Loss of low back range of motion
  • Achy, dull pain across low back and hip region
  • Low back Stiffness and tenderness
  • Low tolerance for prolonged periods in one position, such as sitting and standing
  • Pain during position changes (transitional movements) such as sit to stand, rolling in bed, getting in/out of the car
  • Weakness and low exercise tolerance
  • Difficulty with walking and activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning, bathing
  • Poor sleep
  • Sometimes: sharp and/or shooting pain running down from low back region to buttocks, legs and feet.
  • Sometimes: Low back pain accompanied by neck and upper back pain

Prognosis: Similar to whiplash injury
  • Get moving! A combo of movement within the available range and rest. Contact our Vancouver Physiotherapist to get your rehab journey started!
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You can get knee injury by hitting dashboard during a car accident

Knee injuries

  • ‘Dashboard Injury’ : knee(s) impact dashboard of car, can cause ligament injury (PCL, ACL, MCL, LCL), other soft tissue injuries, fracture (knee cap, Tibia, Fibula)
  • Sudden jerky movements can overstretch, tear, or twist knee soft tissues such as ligaments, and cartilage.

Common Symptom experienced:
  • Minor injuries such as bruising, scrapes and cuts
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness on palpation
  • Capsular stiffness and rigidity
  • Apprehensive knee movements
  • Limited knee range of motion
  • Knee and leg pain
  • Difficulty bearing weight on affected leg
  • Difficulty in standing, going up/downstairs
  • Sensation of unsteadiness and lack of balance and stability

Prognosis: This can vary depending on the structure and extent of the injury. Contact a Physiotherapist to get your rehab journey started!
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Do I have to pay for ICBC physiotherapy treatments?

Our clinic will direct bill ICBC for the physiotherapy sessions, and there will be no out-of-pocket cost to you.

How many ICBC physiotherapy treatments do I have?

As many as is needed to rehabilitate you back to your pre-injury state, and you are benefiting and making functional gains as a result of ICBC physiotherapy treatments.

ICBC pre-approves 25 physiotherapy sessions for the first 12 weeks after your injury date. If more treatment is required, the physiotherapist will submit a Treatment Plan. A Treatment Plan outlines your functional gains to date, what further functional gains we expect (let’s call them Goals), and number of session to accomplish our goal(s).

What do I need to start ICBC physiotherapy treatment?

- ICBC claim #
- Accident date

With this information, you can book a physiotherapy assessment (link here) and start the treatment right away.

If 12 weeks has passed from your accident date and you are having treatment for the first time, we will contact ICBC to have the first few sessions approved. Once approved by ICBC, these initial visits allow the physiotherapist to assess and treat you, while completing a Physiotherapy Treatment Plan to submit to ICBC. The treatment plan would include an Extension request for physiotherapy treatment.

What benefits can I expect from Physiotherapy?

Depending on the stage of the injury (acute or chronic) the benefits of physiotherapy treatment include:

  • Decrease in pain
  • Increase in pain-free Range of Motion
  • Increase in strength and cardiorespiratory endurance
  • Improvement in balance and coordination
  • Increase independence and function
  • Accelerate return to previous activities (leisure, work, sports)

What will a physiotherapist do to help with my car accident injuries?

After the initial assessment, both client and physiotherapist will discuss treatment options to address the injuries and a personalized plan will be administered. Some techniques commonly applied are:

Our clinic provides manual therapy in ICBC physiotherapy treatment package in Vancouver

Manual therapy

Using their hands, our Vancouver physiotherapists are able to help improve soft tissue circulation, blood flow, reduce swelling and improve joint mobility

Soft Tissue Release

STR is a composed of hands-on manual therapy technique used to address soft tissues (muscle, ligaments, fascia, tensons) injuries. Techniques such as active assisted stretch, cupping, massage, and scrapping helps to decrease the sensation of tightness, adhesions and scarring that might occur after an injury, resulting in pain, loss of mobility, strength, and function.

Our physio clinic offers a comprehensive ICBC physiotherapy treatment program

Personalized exercise prescription

Starting with simple, pain-free and effective exercises to help strengthen the muscles affected by the injury, this is one of the most important steps in the rehabilitation process. Client adherence to the exercises prescribed by the physiotherapist helps to speed it up recovery and to reduce chronic pain and re-aggravation episodes.

Optimally, strengthening program is the long-term fix to any injury, since we need to make the body function by itself again. Most of the short-term pain relief techniques mentioned here, helps the body to perform better in the framework in between sessions, so you can exercise and get stronger. IT’S A TEAMWORK!

In addition to regular exercises that can be performed safely at home or in the gym, we offer Clinic Pilates here at Van Sports & Physio (What is Clinical Pilates? | Van Sports & Physio ( to help you to get stronger.


Physiotherapy devises such as Low-Level Laser Therapy ( Low Level Laser Therapy | Van Sports & Physio (, Electrotherapy, and ICE/Heating packs help to accelerate healing process, reduce inflammation, reduce muscle pain and spasm)

Our physiotherapist provides IMS treatment to increase the joint motion

Intramuscular Stimulation

IMS involves the insertion of a sterile dry needle into taut and tender muscles at the site of pain or near the spine where the nerve that’s associated to the affected muscle originates from. Increased joint range of motion and ease of motion and reduction in pain intensity are some of the benefits of IMS. You can check it more on our blog post by the Physiotherapist Yvonne here: What is IMS? Is This Treatment For Me? | Van Sports & Physio (

Acupuncture is one of the ICBC physiotherapy treatments


Also using the insertion of sterile needles in specific points through the body, this technique is helpful for chronic pain.

Other important information

Besides Physiotherapy treatment, any person involved in a car accident can have access to multiple health care treatments, such as massage therapy and counselling.

You can find more information about ICBC Enhanced Care available to individuals involved in a car accident on ICBC’s website: ICBC Enhanced Care - New auto insurance for B.C.