Is Massage Therapy Good for Whiplash?

Whiplash is a painful and confusing condition. 

It can be hard to know what treatments are effective and which ones to steer clear of. You have probably heard that massage could be a good option but you are probably wondering, is massage good for whiplash? 

This guide will help you understand what massage therapy for whiplash looks like and whether or not it will help you. 

From walking you through what a good massage therapist should do to how to deal with post-massage pain, we are here to give you the answers you are looking for. 

Table of Contents

Can Massage Make Whiplash Worse?

Massage in and of itself is a great treatment option for whiplash. It helps to loosen stiff muscles and relieve tension. 

If done correctly, massage can help speed up the healing process and bring much-needed relief. But if your therapist doesn’t have the proper training, or does the massage incorrectly you might find yourself experiencing greater pain than before the massage. 

There are a couple of different ways that your therapist could end up hurting rather than helping. 

The Massage Therapist Massages Too Deeply

If your therapist goes too deep into the muscles, you may experience pain after your massage. 

The tricky part here is that people often do not feel the pain until after they have had the massage. While the therapist is working out the muscles, the depth often feels good and the patient will likely find that having the deep knots worked out helps them feel better for the moment. 

But going too deep without proper after-care can lead to increased pain. 

This is because when you receive a massage, there is a natural amount of inflammation that occurs. This is a natural body response and is perfectly healthy however, the deeper your massage therapist goes the more inflammation you will have. 

Keep reading to find tips on how to address the inflammation so you don’t end up with more pain. 

The Massage Therapist Is Not Trained or Licensed

Not all massage therapists are created equal. 

Some are specially trained to treat injuries and some are not. 

If you go to your local massage parlor for a basic massage and ask them to work out the pain in your neck, you can expect that it will not be done properly. This is because there are multiple different types of masseurs and not all are qualified to treat injuries. 

If your therapist is not trained to treat acute and auto-related injuries, there is a strong chance that they will not treat your pain points correctly. 

Whiplash healing time can be finicky, but, if you seek care from an untrained provider, you can count on it taking even longer. 

Here at Cascade Spine and Injury Center, all of our massage therapists are fully trained and certified in caring for acute and auto-related injuries, meaning you are in good hands. 

What Should You Do If You Experience Pain After Massage Therapy for Whiplash?

Experiencing a level of pain after the massage is common, but intense pain and discomfort are not normal. 

If you are experiencing pain after your massage for whiplash, there are some things that you can do to help alleviate it.

Perform Icing Per Protocol

Ice is like an anti-inflammatory power tool. Performing a proper icing protocol can make all the difference in any pain you are experiencing. 

If you find yourself with pain after your massage, grab an ice pack, wrap it in a tea towel, and use it according to the CBAN protocol. 

CBAN stands for …

  • C – cold
  • B – burning 
  • A – aching
  • N – numb

 … and is an acronym that helps patients ensure they are icing properly. 

When you ice your neck post-whiplash massage, keep the ice pack on until your neck feels numb. 

Remember, you should never ice any part of your body for longer than 20 minutes, even if you never reach numbness and always place a layer of thin fabric, like a shirt, between the ice and your skin to protect your skin from the ice.

Let Your Massage Therapist Know

Communicating with your massage therapist is vital. 

If you experience pain after your massage for whiplash, be sure and let your therapist know the details. This allows them to change and adapt your treatment plan to ensure that you get the best treatment for your condition. 

Drink Plenty of Water

If you have ever had a massage, no doubt you were told to drink a lot of water afterward. 

Despite what it may sound like, this is not just some type of cliché health advice. 

Your muscles naturally produce metabolic waste that, in ideal conditions, simply removes itself from the muscles. But, when your muscles become tense or you get knots, the metabolic waste does not purge, instead, it accumulates. 

When you loosen the muscles and work out the knots, the waste is released. Your body needs fluids to help flush it out and allow your kidneys to process it. 

Additionally, massages can be very dehydrating because working soft tissues can cause them to release the fluids they store and send those fluids to the kidneys. You have to drink enough water to replenish these fluids and keep your body hydrated and happy. 

Is Massage Therapy Good for Whiplash?

Yes, massage therapy is a helpful treatment at any stage of whiplash. 

From the earliest detection to the longest-persisting symptoms, massage can help it all. 

Here’s What Science Says

Massage therapy works for whiplash because it alleviates tightness and helps break up scar tissue. When your muscles become tight, it is nearly impossible for them to heal correctly and that means a long road to whiplash recovery. 

Whiplash often causes myofascial injuries, meaning the muscles and ligaments were injured. Massage therapy is a common and effective treatment option for myofascial injuries. 

What Does Massage Therapy for Whiplash Look Like?

A massage for whiplash should start gently, moving to firmer techniques only after a gentle lymphatic drainage massage. 

Once the massage therapist has worked through the lymphatic drainage portion, they usually move to a deep-tissue massage. 

Your massage therapist should always begin with light massage techniques if you have whiplash. 

Start With Light, Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Your therapist should begin with a light lymphatic drainage massage to help release excess liquid retention from the area. This reduces swelling and inflammation, thus reducing pain.

This technique includes slow, long strokes combined with other intentional methods.

This massage technique is designed to help the lymphatic fluid move freely where it needs to so that it does not create inflammation. 

Deep Tissue Massage As Tolerated

Once the gentle massage is finished, your therapist will likely move to a deep tissue massage, meant to work out tension and help alleviate pain. 

Deep tissue massages are slow and include a lot of pressure. 

This type of massage can be incredibly intense and even painful at times. This is a great time to communicate with your therapist and let them know what feels like too much. 

Some discomfort during massage therapy is to be expected, but it should not be consistently painful.

Here Are 4 Reasons That You Should Get Massage Therapy for Your Whiplash

Massage therapy for whiplash is an incredible tool that can speed up the healing process and bring quick pain relief. 

There are several reasons you should consider massage therapy for whiplash. 

#1: Massage Therapy Can Speed Up Your Recovery from Whiplash

Your body is all intertwined; one tight muscle leads to other tight muscles. 

Massage therapy helps promote the body’s natural healing process by relieving tension from the muscles in the head and neck.

By loosening one set of muscles, you can help loosen others, leading to less pain all over. 

#2: Massage Therapy Helps Break Up Scar Tissue Caused by Whiplash

Scar tissue, which is composed of collagen fibers, forms when normal tissue has been destroyed by something traumatic like surgery, an injury, or a disease. 

Although it is a part of the body’s natural healing system, scar tissue can cause pain and problems if there is too much in one place for too long. 

Massage helps to break up scar tissue and allows the body to align the tissues as needed. 

#3: Massage Therapy Can Relieve Muscle Pain Caused by Whiplash

Oftentimes, tension equals pain. 

After whiplash, your neck and shoulders experience a lot of tension and that causes significant pain and stiffness. 

Massage helps to relieve tension in muscles and reduce muscle pain from inflammation. By working out the tension in the muscles, massage therapy allows the muscles to relax and return to their natural state faster. 

#4: Massage Therapy Can Help Prevent the Possibility of Reinjury

When muscles are stiff and tight, they lose the flexibility that helps keep them injury-free. Tight muscles experience more strain when in use, leading to injury. 

Massage therapy helps loosen these muscles up and keep them from becoming the root of another injury. 

Get Massage Therapy for Your Whiplash At Cascade Spine & Injury Center

Is massage therapy good for whiplash? Yes, massage therapy is great for whiplash! 

But not just any massage therapy will help your whiplash-related pain. You need a specially trained therapist who knows how to treat acute and auto-related neck injuries. Seeking specialized care from a non-trained therapist can lead to more pain. 

Cascade Spine and Injury Center staffs fully trained and certified massage therapists that know how to help you get the relief you seek. 

Even better, as a multidisciplinary clinic, we have other practitioners available such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, and more. 

Whiplash pain relief is possible and Cascade Spine and Injury Center is here to help. 

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