How to Heal a Trauma in the Neck
By Noah Volz
It happens. You may get rear-ended, crash your bike, face plant on your skis or get hit by a kayak. Whiplash may come in many forms and if not treated wisely it can become a long-term problem. Massage and bodywork can can be a primary or adjunct therapy for the pain and discomfort that come with whiplash.
The term "whiplash" says it all. The head whips forward when their is sudden impact and the muscles of the neck contract to try and slow the forward momentum. This contraction to slow down the momentum of the head can cause micro-tears to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the neck.
The most common cause of whiplash are car accidents. It has been estimated by The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that 20 percent of collisions later report whiplash symptoms. The precise pain pattern that develops will depend on whether the impact was front to back or side to side. The pain can be felt in the back, neck or arms and may be more severe when it impacts the nerve roots.
This is relatively rare and "over 95% of the time whiplash tends to create more superficial damage" sas Ben Benjamin Ph.D and massage therapist. That is why massage can provide so much benefit to the condition. Because it is able to effectively treat the superficial tears of the ligaments and tendons. As it does this pain and soreness are decreased and chronic problems can be avoided.
The symptoms associated with whiplash are as varied as how they occur. Some common signs of whiplash include headaches, pain, stiffness, and numbness. These symptoms can be felt in the neck, shoulders, upper back, low back and arms.
After an injury of this magnitude the soft tissues begin to heal by creating scar tissue. The scar tissue is like a scab over the injured muscles and ligaments and so it acts as a sort of glue to hold the tissues together. This will often be experienced as stiffness two or three days after the injury-causing incident.
Although whiplash is most often associated with the neck the long muscles that run next to the spine from the base of the skull to the bottom of the tailbone are effected as well. The body may try to compensate for the discomfort or stiffness that arises in areas such as the arms or the chest. Headaches are also a common symptom of whiplash and are associated with swelling and altered fluid pressure dynamics that effect circulation.
Massage Can Be an Effective Aid
It is well known that massage causes relaxation of muscles and can help relieve muscular pain. This is true when it is used to treat common types of whiplash injuries. One of the ways it can help is by increasing oxygen and nutrients in the blood so that the tissues that are effected have adequate cellular nutrition in order to speed up recovery.
More therapeutic types of bodywork can also be utilized in situations where there is acute whiplash discomfort. One of these methods is called myofascial release and it is used to restore the fluid tone to the sheaths around the muscles that intersect and collaborate with the nerves and vessels. When the fascia becomes smoother and more responsive it helps to increase mobility in the muscles and ligaments. Techniques such as cross fiber friction can be used to break up scar tissue and relieve stiffness. Tension is also relieved by deep tissue and orthopedic massage such as trigger point therapy which may improve circulation and thereby ease and prevent headaches.
The neck is a delicate part of the body and is full of various tissues. It is often advised to proceed with caution by by waiting a few days after the accident to seek treatment. After a few days the body and mind have stabilized enough to receive treatment and begin the healing process. Once a thorough assessment has been undertaken to determine if there is serious injury such as a fracture, a concussion, or a disc problem massage can proceed.
How Healing Happens
You may have met someone in the old days who would wear a cervical collar to immobilize whiplash injuries, but now it is more common to have a less drastic approach.
Common recommendations include:
The sooner whiplash is addressed the better in order to avoid any chronic problems. Please consider a bodywork session as part of you or someone you love's treatment program. Massage is a powerful tool when it comes to relieving suffering from whiplash by lessening muscle pain, inducing relaxation, and easing the mind. With consistent treatment you will be back to your same level of activity and engagement in no time.