Your doctor will probably tell you to take it easy following your car collision. Don’t jump back into your triathlon training routine. Allow your body to heal. But it’s important to understand that "taking it easy" doesn’t mean lying in bed for hours immobile.
Research consistently shows the sooner you start moving around, the quicker you recover. For example, once-popular cervical collars have become outdated as researchers discover that patients recover quicker without the collars. Immobilization feels safe, but it comes at a high cost: muscle atrophy, decreased blood flow, and even allowing scars to form in dysfunctional patterns. In one study, motor vehicle collision patients received equal care, but half went back to work and half didn’t. The group that returned to work recovered better. The key is that activity is not strenuous: it’s gentle and easy, but just enough to keep the body engaged. If you work at a computer, it’s more important than ever to take frequent screen breaks. That means every 20 minutes, you stand up, move around, and gently mobilize your neck and shoulders as per instructions from your physical therapist or doctor. If it’s hard for you to remember to take breaks, set a timer to remind yourself.
The sad truth is that pain and stiffness following a car accident can last for years. Fortunately, there are many forms of treatment available. Chiropractic care, physical therapy, and prescription drugs can help. Another great and holistic treatment option is massage therapy.
Massage increases blood flow, aligns scar tissue, and reduces inflammation. Massage is uniquely helpful among your treatment options because it's also relaxing, which downregulates the nervous system to reduce anxiety, tension, and pain following a traumatic event like a car crash.
A series of massages reduces pain, restores range of motion, and eases anxiety and difficulty sleeping following a car accident.
Massage therapy is covered through PIP, which is part of all auto insurance in Washington state by default. Learn more about PIP.
However, not all massage is created equal. Make sure your massage therapist is qualified to work with whiplash and MVA injuries by asking about their training and experience.
Aggressive treatment can make whiplash worse. Treatment should begin with gentle, relaxing massage for the couple weeks, to downregulate the nervous system and reduce inflammation and pain. Then deeper massage can directly address knots and restrictions at the injury site.
There are experts who want to help you feel like yourself again. Please get the care you need.
Jesse Martel is a Licensed Massage Therapist who practices in Seattle, Washington. She has helped many people overcome neck/shoulder injuries and chronic back pain with Upgraded Myofascial Release massage. Treatment includes Aromatherapy, Myofascial Release, Cupping, Lymphatic Drainage, and Kinesiology Tape at one flat rate. Her website is SageBodyworkSeattle.com.