Getting rear-ended in traffic. Face-planting at the bottom of a ski slope. Tumbling over the handlebars on your bike. Whiplash comes in many forms and can become a long-term problem if not treated correctly. Fortunately, massage and bodywork can address the ache and discomfort that come with whiplash and prevent chronic pain down the road.
Whiplash is an injury to the spine and surrounding muscles caused by the abrupt jerking motion – backward, forward, or sideways – that happens because of the impact experienced during a car accident or sudden fall. The muscles and spine are ‘caught off guard’ and thus unprepared for the sudden involuntary acceleration 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 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 a few days later. Scar tissue lays down in haphazard formations like 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.
What causes whiplash?
Anytime your head jerks backward or forward, the impact can strain your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles. Located on each side of your neck, those are what you use to tilt your head or turn from side to side. A sudden movement might stretch or tear the muscles or tendons, resulting in what’s commonly known as whiplash but may also be called a hyperextension injury, cervical strain or sprain, or acceleration-flexion neck injury.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Tightness, stiffness, and soreness in your neck
Swelling, bruising, redness and/or tenderness
Dizziness and pain when moving your head
Headache, ringing in the ears, blurry eyesight
What Massage techniques may help for whiplash injury?
Any massage that causes a general relaxation of the client’s muscles can help relieve muscular pain in common types of whiplash injuries. In addition, massage increases the amount of oxygen that reaches the injured tissues and opens those tissues so they can receive oxygen and nutrients, thus speeding the recovery process.
In addition to relaxation massage, specific bodywork methods ease acute whiplash discomfort and help prevent chronic fallout. Massage is the most effective treatment for breaking up and realigning scar tissue and increasing mobility associated with Whiplash. The massage therapist uses a method called cross-fiber friction that works counter to the direction of the muscle to loosen adhesions and decrease scar tissue buildup. Any type of bodywork that stimulates circulation helps ease and prevent headaches. In addition, the therapist may use other strokes and stretches in areas adjoining the primary area of injury to reduce muscle tension and restore full range of motion.
Lastly, the incident that caused the whiplash in the first place, (a car wreck, for instance) can be traumatic. Massage helps relax a client’s psyche as well as their muscles, helping her or him work through the emotional issues induced by the accident.
If you have been in an accident and now experience muscle tension or pain in your in neck, shoulders, or lower back, you are likely experiencing the effects of whiplash. Tightness, stiffness, headaches, and soreness can lead to trouble sleeping, concentrating, or carrying out everyday activities. 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.