A small lapse in concentration while driving, a mistimed movement on a football field, or a simple fall in the street can be all it takes for a patient to experience a potentially life-changing traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even a seemingly minor injury can lead to a TBI, and can have serious long-term effects.
In addition, loss of certain movements and cognitive functions, difficulty with memory and concentration, and mood swings are all common in TBI sufferers, making these conditions among the most difficult and frightening for patients to deal with.
While massage therapy cannot directly treat TBIs, it can help to relieve some of the physical and psychological strain on TBI sufferers, improving their quality of life and making their recovery much easier.
The most common types of traumatic brain injuries are concussions, which are traumas to the brain caused by sudden movements or impact. Other types of traumatic brain injury include:
In second year of the Massage Therapy program at OVCMT, outreach clinics such as Neurologic and Systemic Conditions introduce students to patients with various concerns, many of which include TBIs. These multiple-week outreaches offer the opportunity for students to develop and modify treatment plans as patients progress in wellness, and to support activities of daily living and tissue health.
Massage Therapy Training graduates may encounter TBI patients experiencing a variety of symptoms including sleep problems and migraines, as well as issues with concentration and memory, physical aches and pains, and balance and movement problems. Massage can be used to provide pain relief, reduce stress levels in TBI sufferers, and negate some of the physical problems they may experience.
A case study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork in 2015 showed encouraging results for massage therapy in patients with concussion injuries. A 23 year-old male with post-concussion syndrome underwent two 45-minute massage therapy sessions over the course of two days. Prior to treatment, the patient had reported headaches, dizziness, hypertonicity in the cervical and shoulder joints, stiffness in the cranial area, and balance issues.
The sessions focused on myofascial release, as well as deep tissue massage around the cervical, cranial and shoulder girdle regions, in order to reduce hypertonicity and help facilitate musculoskeletal balance. The results showed a marked improvement in range of motion and balance, as well as improved concentration and a reduction in headaches and dizziness.
Massage college students may also come across patients whose injuries have resulted in nerve damage in the neuromuscular pathways of the body, and who need to relearn certain regular movement patterns. This is usually most acute in severe brain injuries, but can occur to a certain extent even with more mild conditions.
In this situation, neuromuscular re-education can play an important role in a patient’s recovery, helping to stimulate the body’s nervous system and reform neurological pathways that have broken down. A typical treatment plan might include Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), as well integrated exercises such as core stabilization work, while other techniques, such as muscle energy technique and joint mobilization, may also be included to help restore the full range of movement to the affected area.
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