According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) there were 85,000 injuries due to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) in British Columbia in 2013. And there is little doubt that seat belts played a major role in preventing that tally of injuries from becoming a count of fatalities. However, it is important to note that while the seat belt is an invaluable life-saving device, it cannot provide full-body protection during impact or rollover. The restraining force required to prevent passengers from being catapulted from the car may result in serious damage to the body’s organs, bones, and soft tissues.
Increasingly, the medical community is recognizing massage therapy as an effective complementary treatment for a range of MVA-related injuries. After a physician has ruled out internal injuries or other contraindications for massage, RMTs may play an integral role in supporting patient recovery. Graduates of massage therapy college command a repertoire of techniques shown to help MVA survivors recover from musculoskeletal injuries, persistent pain, and emotional distress.
Patients recovering from broken bones, sprains, strains or surgery following a car accident may experience significant loss of musculoskeletal flexibility. As a result of physical trauma and inflammation, the connective tissue (or fascia) that surrounds afflicted muscles, bones, organs and nerves may become tight, inhibiting circulation and restricting movement. Graduates of massage college are typically familiar with myofascial massage, a soft tissue technique that gradually alleviates fascial tension, allowing muscles to stretch and joints to recover range of motion. Myofascial massage addresses both the site of injury and the body as a whole, enhancing its natural capacity for healing.
During recovery from MVA-related injuries, some patients may benefit from deep tissue massage to relieve adhesions - bands of rigid, painful tissue that form as a result of trauma or post surgery. Not only do adhesions cause stiffness and reduce flexibility, but they may also block nutrients and oxygen from circulating optimally throughout the body. The RMT will penetrate deep into the muscle to break up scar tissue and knots, and help alleviate persistent pain from chronic conditions. Coupled with orthopedic techniques, deep tissue massage can help restore function and structural balance throughout the entire body and is appropriate for sub-acute stages of recovery.
Following a physician’s direction, RMTs may administer Swedish massage directly following an MVA to help calm and sooth the patient’s nervous system. A staple of massage therapy training, Swedish massage promotes relaxation with gentle strokes and kneading, working to alleviate stress and prepare the body for subsequent treatment. This modality may be applied throughout the patient’s recovery, in combination with other techniques, as a means of reducing anxiety, strengthening the immune system, and promoting healthy circulation.
What observations or experiences can you share about treating MVA survivors with massage therapy?