Whiplash and Medical Massage Therapy
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a neck injury that is caused by the forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck. This motion is similar to the cracking of a whip. Whiplash most often occurs during a rear-end auto accident, but the injury can also result from a sports accident, physical abuse, or other trauma.
Common signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness and headaches. Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.
Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries. If you have experienced the trauma of whiplash, it would most likely benefit you to seek out a Medical Massage Therapist. Medical Massage Therapy is one of the most well received treatments for whiplash. At Healing Solutions Inc, we treat injuries caused by Auto Accidents, and would be happy to help you get relief from pain.
How do I know if I have Whiplash?
Signs and symptoms of whiplash usually — but not always — develop within 24 hours of the injury and may include the following:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Jaw and facial pain
- Numbness in the shoulders, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Postural Changes
Should I see a doctor for Whiplash symptoms?
It is important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis and to rule out broken bones or tissue damage that can cause or worsen symptoms. As a general rule, it is always best to visit a doctor first when you are experiencing head and/or neck issues.
Causes of Whiplash
Whiplash typically occurs when your head is forcefully and quickly thrown backward and then forward. This motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck.
A whiplash injury may result from:
Auto accidents. Rear-end collisions are a major cause of whiplash. In fact, they are the number one cause of whiplash and whiplash related injuries. We have a ton of information related to Auto Accident Injuries on our website. If you would like some more information on Auto Accidents and how to get insurance coverage for Medical Massage, visit our blog here:
Physical abuse or assault. Whiplash can occur if you are punched or shaken. It's one of the injuries seen in shaken baby syndrome.
Contact sports. Football tackles and other sports-related collisions can sometimes cause whiplash. At Healing Solutions Inc, we strive to provide you with information on how to relieve pain. If you would like more information on Sports Injury Massage or Sports Massage, feel free to read our blog regarding these issues here:
ANY activity that causes that forward/backward motion of the head and neck. This could be the result of anything that caused you to suddenly lose momentum. This can be seen in regular play, such as bicycle wrecks, atv or motorcycle accidents, etc.
Common Complications of Whiplash Injuries
It is common for people who have sustained a whiplash injury to feel better within a few weeks. There are instances where some people continue to have pain for several months or years after the injury occurred.
It is difficult to predict how each person with whiplash may recover. In general, you may be more likely to have chronic pain if your first symptoms were intense, started rapidly and included:
- Severe neck pain
- Pain that spread to the arms
The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:
- Having had whiplash before
- Older age
- Existing low back or neck pain
Now that you have some information on Whiplash, let’s explore what really happens to your muscles during a car accident and why massage is so beneficial for whiplash injuries.
What happens to muscles during a car accident?
As stated above, whiplash is an injury to the spine and surrounding muscles caused by the abrupt jerking motion – backward, forward, or sideways – that happens as a result of the sudden impact experienced during a car accident. The muscles and spine are ‘caught off guard’ and thus unprepared for the sudden involuntary acceleration of the body, and this results in partial tearing of the muscle tissue.
Tenderness or pain in the neck, head and upper back areas almost always follow. Lower back pain can also accompany whiplash. You may feel only slight immediate pain or discomfort following your accident, but it is common for serious tension and stiffness to set in up to two weeks later.
Whiplash causes micro-tearing of muscle tissue and other supportive tissues requiring repair and protection by scar tissue. You may only start to experience pain once the muscle has begun to heal and scar tissue starts to form. Scar tissue lays down in haphazard formations similar to fiberglass and may cause the underlying bone, tissue and muscle fibers to get “stuck” together. You experience this as a pulling or tightness that results in a loss of flexibility or range of motion.
Why is Medical Massage Therapy so beneficial for Whiplash Injuries?
Massage is the most effective treatment for breaking up and realigning scar tissue and increasing mobility associated with Whiplash. Your Medical Massage Therapist may use any of the following techniques to help you, depending on the exact treatment you need:
Myofascial release techniques with stretching will deeply warm and soften the tissues to provide healing and repair.
Cross-fiber friction massage, where we work across the fibers of the muscles and use stretching modalities, realigns the mixed up fibers and break of the adhesions to help release the tightened tissues.
Similarly, cranial sacral work will gently release restrictions along the spine and support the entire nervous system in recovery. Cranial sacral work is gentle, but works very deeply into the body systems.
Trigger point therapy addresses the hyper-irritable points/knots in the muscle tissue. These painful points restrict range of motion and refer pain in a predictable manner. Therapists can apply direct pressure to the trigger points, thus releasing the knot, the discomfort and improving range of motion in the area.
In addition, the therapist may use other strokes, stretches, and modalities in areas adjoining the primary area of injury to reduce muscle tension and restore full range of motion.
A typical treatment is once a week for 8-12 sessions and should provide near 100% recovery. While physical therapy and yoga are other alternatives, these are usually not as directly effective at massage which works directly on adhesions while also helping break up scar tissue and restore your range of motion.
Another huge benefit to Medical Massage Therapy is that it treats the emotional symptoms related to whiplash injuries that are not always addressed by medical doctors. Emotional symptoms that can be caused by this type of injury include:
- Issues surrounding Social Isolation
These symptoms can occur with any traumatic injury, and definitely should be addressed. Medical Massage Therapy, and Massage Therapy in general, are great resources for helping you deal with your physical pain, but also with these types of emotional pain as well.
What is most important to realize is that without any treatment, the muscle aches and knots experienced after an accident will go on for years. You may never be quite pain-free, and these knots and kinks set in and become part of your lifestyle. The good news, however, for those who have had accidents years ago and never got treatment is that Medical Massage Therapy is very effective, even after many years.
So, in a nutshell, if you have been in an accident and now experience muscle tension or pain in your neck, shoulders, or lower back, you are likely experiencing the effects of whiplash. You do not have to feel this way forever! Massage for Whiplash is the best way to restore your muscles to full function and health.
Book a Medical Massage Therapy session with us, and see for yourself how much we can help you!
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