Massage therapy is one of the most effective treatments for healing after a motor vehicle accident. The sudden impact of a car accident can have lasting effects on your physical and mental health. Pain, headaches, and post traumatic stress disorder may not appear until days or weeks after the accident. It’s important to address symptoms right away so they don’t become more problematic with time.
Massage therapy after a car accident is covered by your auto insurance. After you’ve been cleared by a primary care physician, massage treatments can begin. Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and trigger point therapy are modalities commonly used for treating motor vehicle accidents. Each of these forms of massage use a gentle approach to resolve pain or injuries that may have been sustained.
A series of 8 to 12 appointments can dramatically speed up recovery time. The first few massages will focus on decreasing pain, reducing stress, and encouraging relaxation. Once you are more comfortable, massages will focus on resolving the deeper injuries, like tears or adhesions in the muscles. The final few appointments will focus on integrating you back into your daily life, making sure you have a full range of motion, and ensuring you can move on with your life in health.
5 ways massage helps you heal after a motor vehicle accident
1. Resolve whiplash
Whiplash is the most common injury sustained after a car accident. Sudden breaking from a high speed can cause strain or tears to the small, delicate muscles in the neck. Massage therapy has been shown to significantly improve neck pain (1). Whiplash can lead to headaches, pain, and loss of movement in the neck if not addressed. A massage technique called cross fiber friction is used to break up scar tissue and relax strained muscles that are causing discomfort related to whiplash.
2. Relieve headaches
Tension headaches can occur from the stress of an accident. Massage has been shown to reduce the frequency and duration of headaches (2). Often described as a tightness or aching around the forehead and scalp or behind the eyes, tension headaches can become a recurrent pattern if not addressed. Massage helps to relax the muscles of the head and neck, and circulate new blood into the area.
3. Reduce muscle spasms
That sudden stop in a car accident can leave you feeling achy and sore. All the back and forth motion of the impact can cause your muscles to spasm. Spasming muscles can easily be addressed by massage. With moderate pressure applied directly on the muscles, a massage therapist can work to ease and prevent spasms.
4. Stress and anxiety relief
Stress and anxiety after a car accident is normal. During accidents, your body inherently tenses and shifts into a heightened state of awareness, referred to as “fight or flight”. It’s a self defense mechanism that can help protect your body and manage overwhelming events. In the days following an accident, it’s important to take time to relax and let your body come back down into a normal state of awareness. Massage geared toward relaxation grounds you back in your body.
5. Better sleep
An adequate amount of sleep is necessary for healthy functioning and quick healing. Massage is a proven method for a better nights sleep. Getting a massage stimulates the production of serotonin, the “happy chemical” that regulates sleep and wake cycles. With a good night of sleep, you can get back into the normal rhythm of your life.
The Benefit of Touch
In addition to these benefits, it’s important to have someone to listen and to empathize with your experience. Touch is the first language we learn; it provides comfort and a sense of understanding from another. Patients in a research study of 41 motor vehicle accident victims “reported that caring touch may assist in trauma recovery by functioning as a physical ‘anchor’ on the patient’s way of suffering, facilitating the transition of patients from feeling as though their body is ‘turned off’ to becoming ‘awake’ (3). A massage therapist’s goal is to provide support and attentive touch after your auto accident, so that your road to recovering your health seems well within reach.
- K. J. Sherman et al.: Randomized Trial of Therapeutic Massage for Chronic Neck Pain. Clinical journal of pain 25, 233 (2009)
- C. Quinn et al.: Massage Therapy and Frequency of Chronic Tension Headaches. Am. J. Public Health 92, 1657 (2002)
- F. Airosa et al.: Caring touch as a bodily anchor for patients after sustaining a motor vehicle accident with minor or no physical injuries – a mixed methods study. BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 16 (2016)
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