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The Best Type of Massage for Whiplash

If you’ve been in a car accident that resulted in whiplash, you know how debilitating and frustrating it can be.

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. It can takes weeks or months to feel normal again.

One treatment option you shouldn't overlook is massage therapy.

After whiplash, massage can help to reduce pain and spasm, increase mobility, improve sleep, and provide emotional support during the recovery process.

Plus, insurance might cover it: in Washington state, PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage is a type of insurance that is required to be included in all auto insurance policies. This means that if you are involved in a car accident and sustain injuries, regardless of who was at fault, your massage therapy expenses may be reimbursable through PIP.

Does massage therapy help with whiplash?

So, how does massage help with whiplash?

First of all, massage relieves muscle spasm and tension. When you have whiplash, your muscles are panicking and overactive: they get really tight in an attempt to become natural body armor and protect you from ongoing threats. Of course, the crash is over, and there are no more threats. Massage helps to loosen your muscles up and improve range of motion.

After a whiplash injury, it’s common to have muscle spasm and inflammation. Lymphatic drainage massage can be an especially effective treatment for these symptoms as it promotes fluid drainage (decreasing inflammation) and signals the nervous system to relax.

Massage can also make scar tissue more functional. Whiplash can strain the neck and spine and create tiny little tears deep in the body, which results in a build-up of scar tissue. Scar tissue means long-lasting pain and stiffness. Massage breaks up this scar tissue to increase mobility and function and prevent long-term problems.

In addition to physical benefits, massage can also provide emotional and psychological relief for those suffering from whiplash. Have you had trouble sleeping after a car accident? Trauma from a car accident can trigger the body's "fight or flight" response, causing an increase in stress hormones and a sense of anxiety or fear. Massage can help to calm the nervous system, shifting it back to the "rest and repair" mode and improving sleep.

Overall, patients who seek massage therapy after a whiplash injury can find pain relief, improved mobility, and quicker recovery times.

What's the best type of massage for whiplash relief?

Not all massage will help with whiplash equally. While deep tissue massage can be effective for some types of muscle pain, it may not be the best choice for whiplash. The deep pressure used can increase strain and inflammation in delicate structures like the neck. After a traumatic injury, deep tissue massage can even trigger a subconscious protective response that increases inflammation, pain, and muscle spasm, making your symptoms worse rather than better. (Learn more.)

Instead, consider trying techniques like "Manual Lymphatic Drainage" or "Myofascial Release" to gently support your body in its healing process. These techniques are very precise so they use less force/pressure than your typical deep tissue massage, while still delivering on the results.

We recommend receiving Lymphatic Drainage massage in the first few weeks after your whiplash injury. This is known as the "hot stage" of whiplash where the body is struggling to regulate anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Lymphatic drainage massage is a proven medical technique that uses light, repetitive strokes to reduce swelling and inflammation and increase healing. It will help you move past this painful stage as quickly as possible (schedule now).

Once your symptoms have improved and the hypersensitivity has passed, you can switch to Myofascial Release massage for deeper healing. Myofascial Release uses sustained, soothing pressure to relax muscles and connective tissue. It's great for the alignment and structure of the body, and by targeting highly innervated tissues we have a lasting impact on pain and tightness. We call this our "Slo Mo Melt" massage (book here).

Make sure your therapist is familiar with treating whiplash, and alert your therapist if the massage ever feels intense or painful.

Whiplash Treatment in Seattle WA

At Sage Bodywork, we have skilled licensed massage therapists who are experienced with whiplash and specialize in gentle, effective, and research-based massage techniques that can create immediate relief and quicker recovery times.

While we cannot accept insurance or PIP directly, we're happy to provide a superbill upon request, with which you can seek reimbursement from your insurance or PIP claim.

Don't wait to feel better: Book your massage today.

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