As a holistic treatment with numerous applications, massage therapy is an essential part of modern injury rehabilitation programs. Massage therapy can be beneficial in helping to restore range of movement, relieve pain and speed up recovery for almost any type of injury, from minor muscle strains to rehabilitation from more serious accidents, and can even help in rehabilitation of paraplegic and quadriplegic patients.
A Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) will perform a thorough assessment of an injured patient and customize a treatment program which may include a number of different modalities, monitoring their progress and making adjustments as needed.
The following are just some of the common techniques that RMTs utilize in injury rehabilitation, but almost every massage therapy modality can have some form of benefit to patients.
Most injuries, whether broken bones, strains, or tissue damage, cause some loss of neuromuscular flexibility, due to swelling and inflammation, weakening of the fascia and other factors. Fortunately, many of the modalities that students learn in a massage therapy program can be helpful in restoring the range of motion in damaged muscles and joints.
Myofascial massage, for instance, alleviates tension in the fascia to allow muscles and joints to stretch, while active therapies such as muscle energy technique and joint mobilization can also be used to gradually improve range of motion when patients are recovering from injury.
Recovering from an injury can be a painful process, and rehabilitation itself can also cause discomfort, as patients are asked to gradually push the limits of a damaged body part’s range of motion. That’s why much of massage in injury rehabilitation is focused on helping patients manage pain, relieving joint aches and stiffness and breaking up soft tissue adhesions.
Deep tissue massage is commonly used with injured patients, and can be great for releasing tension and restoring function throughout the body, while the light to medium applications of Swedish massage are also ideal for relieving pain and helping relaxation.
In addition to providing pain relief and increasing range of motion, several techniques taught in massage therapist training can also help to accelerate recovery by improving circulation and restoring balance and functionality to the body. For instance, lymphatic drainage can reduce swelling, aches, pains and fatigue by improving the functionality of the lymphatic system, and has been shown to reduce the recovery times of athletes after workouts. Hydrotherapy modalities such as contrast baths can also be used to help increase the blood flow, which further accelerates the healing process.
As part of an injury rehabilitation program, RMTs may also prescribe patients with exercises they can do between sessions to aid recovery where appropriate. Patients can be given stretching exercises to supplement any range of motion therapy they are already undergoing, as well as strength and aerobic exercises to rebuild recovering muscles. Core stabilization exercises support the reestablishment of correct posture while also improving coordination and retraining the neuromuscular patterns of the affected area following a serious injury.