7 Ways Massage Therapy Can Help After a Car Accident

By Joe Neely, Massagetique Correspondent
Teenager with whiplash after a car accident
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Car accidents can cause a variety of physical problems, and many people seek chiropractic care or massage therapy for relief from issues such as whiplash and other aches and pains. Today’s medical experts are increasingly aware of massage therapy’s potential for facilitating health, wellness, and injury recovery, and research supports these benefits. Here are some reasons to find a massage therapist after being in a car accident:

1. Massage Therapy for a Concussion

People often hit their heads in car crashes, and the symptoms associated with these injuries can last long after an accident.

A researcher at the University of Washington Medical Center studied an intramural soccer player who experienced post-concussion symptoms after a fall. After only two massage sessions of 45 minutes each, the soccer player felt less pain, experienced fewer headaches, and needed less medication.

The researcher concluded massage therapy had realigned a subluxation (misalignment of the vertebrae) in the uppermost joint in the soccer player’s neck. In addition, massage improved balance, posture, and range of motion. After massage therapy, the soccer player was able to focus more clearly and engage in regular physical activities.

2. Massage Therapy Can Relieve Whiplash

Whiplash injuries are common in automobile and sports accidents. People who get whiplash may experience pain, stiffness, and poor range of motion, among other symptoms. Some people may feel mental or emotional symptoms such as loss of memory or focus, insomnia, and depression.

A team at Germany’s University of Ulm studied 70 patients with whiplash injuries. They found massage therapy helped them recover much faster than standard care alone. The researchers also pointed out the usefulness of other forms of care such as physical therapy. If you have whiplash, ask your physician about adding massage to your physical therapy regimen, as the combination could help speed up your recovery.

3. Massage Therapy Can Ease Neck Pain

At Seattle’s Group Health Center for Health Studies, a group of researchers determined massage was a safe treatment for neck pain, especially in the short term. People who received massage therapy once a week for 10 weeks reported reduced pain for at least four weeks after the end of these treatments.

4. Massage Therapy Can Help Manage Stress, Anxiety, and PTSD

Experts studied a group of patients in intensive care situations who received 45-minute massages from family members. The study participants showed improvements in blood pressure, respiration, and pulse rate up to three hours after receiving the massage. The researchers recommended intensive care units use safe and effective massage therapy to improve patients’ physical and psychological health.

A research team at the University of California, Los Angeles reported military veterans, who may experience mild to severe posttraumatic stress (PTSD), often turn to complementary therapies such as massage to get the help they need.

5. Massage Therapy for Spinal Cord Injuries

People injure their spines in automobile or motorcycle crashes more often than in any other situation. Roughly a third of people with spinal cord injuries received them in car crashes.

Researchers from Atlanta’s Shepherd Research Center conducted a case study on a middle-aged man with a chronic spinal cord injury. After receiving massage therapy for three consecutive days, the man could walk faster and take bigger steps. The study highlighted massage therapy’s potential to affect the musculoskeletal and neurological systems in positive ways, pointing to the value of further research into massage as a treatment method for those with spinal cord injuries.

6. Massage Therapy for Knee Injuries

People in automobile accidents often injure their knees (though not as often as heads, necks, and spines). Statistics show car crash victims often injure their Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACLs), as do many athletes. Massage therapy has been shown to provide pain relief and healing for people with a wide variety of knee problems.

In a case study of an active 29-year-old woman, a researcher with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork found massage therapy was an effective complementary treatment for people recovering from knee injuries and surgeries. The woman underwent knee surgery for a skiing injury and returned to outdoor exercise (as a mountain/road cyclist) only 14 weeks later.

7. Massage Therapy for Immediate Emotional Trauma

If you’re in a car crash, you may suffer emotionally even if you do not sustain any physical injuries. Massage therapy, especially within several hours of an auto accident, can help people recover their emotional balance.

A research team at the Karolinska Institute for Neurobiology provided massage therapy to people who had recently experienced automobile accidents. Nurses gave gentle massages either over or under the patients’ clothing, depending on their comfort level. The study participants were given as many as eight sessions, roughly 45 minutes in length.

The researchers determined massage therapy helped patients recover their sense of self by providing an emotional anchor. Caring touch allowed them to experience pain alleviation and improved well-being.

Should You Get Massage Therapy After an Automobile Accident?

While it is important to check with your physician before adding massage to any type of medical care after a car accident, massage therapy typically has few side effects and provides a pharmaceutical-free option for pain relief. Ask your doctor to recommend a massage therapist who has training in addressing (or working around) your specific medical conditions.

If you’re in a car crash, consider the many benefits of massage therapy for any aches and pains. Massage treatments can help people restore physical function, live with less pain, and find emotional and physical relief after a traumatic event.

References:

  1. Airosa, F., Arman, M., Sundberg, T., Öhlén, G., & Falkenberg, T. 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 Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16, 106. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1084-2
  2. Burns, S. (2015). Concussion treatment using massage techniques: A case study. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 8(2), 12–17.
  3. Dehner, C., Elbel, M., Strobel, P., Scheich, M., Schneider, F., Krischak, G., & Kramer, M. (2009). Grade II whiplash injuries to the neck: What is the benefit for patients treated by different physical therapy modalities? Patient Safety Surgery, 3(1), 2. doi:10.1186/1754-9493-3-2
  4. Hatefi, M., Jaafarpour, M., Khani, A., Khajavikhan, J., & Kokhazade, T. (2015). The effect of whole body massage on the process and physiological outcome of trauma ICU Patients: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 9(6), UC05–UC08. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/12756.6096
  5. Healthline Editorial Team (2016). Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/anterior-cruciate-ligament-acl-injury#Overview1
  6. Iribarren, J., Prolo, P. Neagos, N., & Chiappelli, F. (2005). Posttraumatic stress disorder: Evidence-based research for the third millennium. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2(4), 503–512. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh127
  7. Manella, C. & Backus, D. (2011). Gait characteristics, range of motion, and spasticity changes in response to massage in a person with incomplete spinal cord injury: Case report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 4(1), 28–39.
  8. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Spinal cord injury. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-cord-injury/basics/causes/con-20023837
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Whiplash symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/basics/symptoms/con-20033090
  10. Sherman, K., Cherkin, D., Hawkes, R., Miglioretti, D., & Deyo, R. (2009). Randomized trial of therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 25(3): 233-8. doi:10.1097/AJP.0b013e31818b7912.
  11. Teasell, R., McClure, J., Walton, D., Pretty, J., Salter, K., Meyer, M., . . . Death, B. (2010). A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions for whiplash-associated disorder (WAD): Part 2 – interventions for acute WAD. Pain Research and Management, 15(5), 295–304.
  12. Zalta, J. (2008). Massage therapy protocol for post–anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction patellofemoral pain syndrome: A case report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 1(2), 11–21.

10 thoughts on “7 Ways Massage Therapy Can Help After a Car Accident”

  1. If you have been in a recent motor vehicle accident (MVA) you may not experience the symptoms of injury immediately. After you have consulted with emergency care professional and decide a massage may help you with symptoms it is important to find a therapist who understands the implications of seeking treatment.
    A therapist should ask detailed questions about your health, both prior and after the event. Be prepared to recall details of your position in the car, speed and extent of injury and emergency treatment. (Including when pain, bruising, muscle spasm or nerurological symptoms appeared. Always tell a therapist if you are taking medication for pain. Detailed written notes and observations are helpful in seeking compensation/damages after a MVA and must be done at the time of the session.

  2. Fantastic article you’ve got there. I have seen many people who massage therapy have actually helped after near death experiences. However if you must have such an experience with massage therapy you should first understand the need for working with an expert. Expert massage therapists are very vital as massage is a very delicate thing. In fact ideal massage therapy will take many years of training, testing, and certification. Additional experience is also important if you need to have the best experience with your massage therapy. But above all pay attention to what other massage customers say about your chosen therapist.

  3. Great post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    Kudos!

  4. It’s interesting that massages can actually help physical and emotional injuries. It makes sense that a car accident can be traumatizing and stress you out. I’ll have to talk to my wife about this because she was recently in an accident and I think massages could help with the soreness and the paranoia.

  5. This is the proper blog for anyone who needs to search out out about this topic. You realize so much its almost arduous to argue with you (not that I really would need…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, just great!

  6. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

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