This article comes after a colleague and friend was in a car accident recently. Her car was hit from the side which is one of the most dangerous of impacts. Don’t get me wrong, all impacts do their own damage on the soft tissue of the body whether it is a car accident, football tackle or fall. However, side or lateral impacts wreak havoc on the body when left untreated, or worse, when treated incorrectly.
For a massage therapist treating a client with recent muscle strain, it is important to initially let the specific area of the strain heal and rest. A massage therapist SHOULD NOT massage an over-lengthened and aggravated muscle strain!! If your wondering about ice, read this before you do.
This may sound like common sense but so often in the massage therapy world a client will complain of specific pain and convince the massage therapist to rub on it. Plenty of therapists out of fear of losing a client will oblige and inevitably lose the client anyway when the massage doesn’t “work” and the client still has the pain or ends up with even more pain. So before you go into hiding and immobilize yourself for fear of making your pain worse I must tell you that there is hope…there are massage therapists out there that have the knowledge and experience to work with clients with recent trauma or injury.
Though it is difficult to generalize with so many different body types and body history out there, I would like to touch on proper massage therapy treatment for those who have had recent impact trauma. The main thing to remember is that there are more areas (soft tissue) of your body affected by impact than you realize. There will be pain and swelling in specific muscle strain and tear points, but there are also compensation and protective reflexes in the functional muscle chain that need to be addressed. So in the case of a side impact, one side of the neck will most likely be over-lengthened and strained while the other side will lock itself short as a protective reaction. Just as when you are startled by someone jumping out at you, your muscles “flinch” in reaction.
This is where as a massage therapist, it is important to leave the strained muscles alone to heal but to gently unlock the reacting muscles on the opposite side. With a proper assessment, a massage therapist can follow the functional lines away from the acute injury site and help relieve pain from the outside in so to speak.
For those of you who read my blog or know me at all, I have a fascination with fascia. It is fascia and it’s connective functional lines that contribute greatly to muscle pain and dysfunction. And when there is trauma or impact on the body, the whole fascial web is affected. Therefore, a massage therapist can never go wrong by giving initial treatment at the most distal (furthest away) points of the body and then working slowly towards the injury points in a functional manner.
As a client, it is important to know the difference between successful massage therapy and unsuccessful. The best way I know to describe this is to say that if you keep going to get bodywork for muscle pain in the same location time after time, then your massage therapist is working in the wrong areas. Especially for chronic pain, the squeaky wheel should NOT always get the grease. Most often, the root cause of chronic pain is from muscle imbalance and dysfunction elsewhere in the body.
If you have recently been injured or are dealing with chronic pain and would like to find a qualified massage therapist in your area, please contact me or check one of the links below.