For nearly a century, we’ve known that the best way to get injured muscle tissues to heal is to get them to move – early and often, though not necessarily to the extremes of their normal limits. In particular, treating whiplash injuries has been easiest when combining massage, mobilization and manipulation of the tissues. When the joints are mobilized, the muscles and connective tissues move – and if done by someone trained in therapeutic massage rehabilitation, they can be moved in a way that encourages them to heal correctly.
The classic response to an injury has long been traction – the immobilization of the area. However, we’ve known for decades that the best whiplash healing happens with controlled movement, not immobilization.
When we hurt our neck’s muscles and ligaments, one of the most common responses is ‘guarding posture’ – a change in the way we hold our head and move that keeps the pain from flaring up. The problem is that when the guarding posture is held for weeks (or months or years) at a time, it can cause a snowball of changes to the way we hold our torso, walk, carry things, and so on – changes that themselves cause pain and problems.
The best way to avoid being permanently stuck in guarding posture is to allow our neck’s muscles and ligaments to heal – which means moving them correctly. But moving them correctly is what we’re guarding against! It hurts! That’s precisely why you need a skilled neuromuscular massage therapist to loosen up the muscles and help you move them correctly without causing wincing pain.
According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, the benefits of massage therapy for neck pain treatment and whiplash have proven to be significantly superior to self-guided exercises and drugs (the so-called “conservative treatment” espoused by most primary care physicians.)
When treating chronic whiplash pain, science proves the benefits of massage therapy to be more effective than acupuncture, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and traction. In addition, the group treated with massage therapy had no adverse reactions – the group taking drugs actually reported more adverse reactions than benefits. Massage therapy was the only one of the three groups that was still found to have benefited one year later.