East Bay Massage: Whiplash and Massage

Whiplash effects 50-100 million Americans every year. Cervical pain (pain in the neck area) is the second most common source of pain, second only to lower back pain. While we most often associate “whiplash” with that back and forth motion of the neck occurring in auto accidents, whiplash can also occur slowly over time! Over-stretching (think prolonged shoulder stands in yoga), poor posture (with the chin jutting forward), and sitting in front of the computer for too long can all also cause the pain we associate with whiplash. Either the sudden motion of a rear end collision or the more gradual injury to neck ligaments or muscles can cause cervical dysfunction.

‘Whiplash’ is a general term that really describes the action that causes cervical spine symptoms. Injury to the neck can occur to any and all of the structures found there. Most commonly, the supraspinous ligament (that ligament that runs down the center of the back of the neck connecting one vertebrae to the one following) has been injured through over-stretching or tearing. However, any of the muscles in the neck may be strained (the occipital muscles, splenius cervicis and splenius capitis, the SCM, and the scalenes). Very rarely, the discs can be damaged and press into the cervical nerves.

Symptoms of whiplash can include headache, shoulder pain, pain at the edge of the shoulder blade, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain, arm pain, ringing in the ears, visual disturbances, as well as emotional symptoms. If you have been suffering with neck pain for any length of time, it’s easy to see how unresolved symptoms can become frustrating. Referred pain can complicate the painful symptoms of whiplash. A knowledgeable massage therapist can help you understand referral patterns from the cervical spine.

Massage is helpful in the treatment of whiplash symptoms. Deep friction techniques serve to break up scar tissue in the neck structures that may limit neck mobility. Massage will serve to relax those neck muscles that have contracted and become stiff and painful. While ligaments take a long time to heal and may not recover after over-stretching, much can be done to mitigate the effects of whiplash. Keeping the surrounding muscles both flexible and strong will support the ligaments of the cervical spine.

Your massage therapist may conduct some simple passive and resisted tests to determine if the neck pain you suffer from is whiplash and should be able to recommend some simple exercises to keep your neck muscles flexible and stable.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!




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