Can Massage Therapy Help Acute Injuries:
By: Arny Warkentin RMT
Why massage can help with acute injuries in the acute phase?
People often have the preconceived notion that massage therapy should commence after healing as occurred. People assume if an area can’t be worked on directly than there is nothing a massage therapist can do. The risk of further injury or increased pain also scares people away from receiving treatments immediately following an injury. These assumptions are perfectly valid and are important considerations for both a patient and therapist when deciding on a safe and effective treatment plan.
What is an acute injury/ What is the acute phase?
An acute injury is defined as an injury that occurs due to some sort of traumatic event. This would include things such as muscle strains or car accidents. The acute phase of an injury begins immediately following an injury and last for a variable amount of time (depending on the severity of the injury)
Assumption #1. Therapy should wait until healing has occurred
The main problem with this assumption is that healing may occur, but whether the body heals in a functional and appropriate way and how long it takes to heal are factors that massage therapy can influence positively.
Assumption #2. treatment is only effective if done directly to the affected area
The affected area may seem like the area that needs work, but with most injuries surrounding tissue is almost always involved and must be addressed. Massage therapy can also help treat compensatory issues before they become a real issue. For example, a patient who comes in with a hamstring strain would likely be given an ice pack on the muscle to control inflammation. While this is occurring a therapist would likely treat the opposite leg, which would be under extra stress due to altered gait and the body trying to protect the injured side by using more of the opposite side.
Assumption #3. Therapy can lead to further injury
This assumption is one that is incredibly important to patients and also to therapists. Massage therapist are trained to recognize the degree of an injury (for example, the level of a muscle strain) and adjust the treatment according to contraindications involved with that specific injury. On a more general level, for any acute condition massage therapists are trained to insure that no part of treatment causes any pain to the involved area, from adjusting pressure, to proper joint positioning.
Assumption #4 Massage therapy will cause more pain, during or after treatment
Massage Therapist are trained to adjust pressure constantly, with constant feedback from the patient. Pain is never a goal, and with acute injuries especially, pain is avoided at all costs. No technique is used which would cause increased pain or discomfort following a treatment. The goal with acute injuries always includes reducing pain during and after the treatment.
When would a massage not be recommended for an acute injury?
Certainly there are times when massage therapy would not be suggested until after some level of healing has occurred. A few examples would include:
- Open wounds (lacerations)
- Flu or cold
Overlapping conditions without medical approval (cancer, concussions, systemic conditions)
If you are ever unsure about the appropriateness of massage, the best thing to do is ask a doctor or give us a call and we will be glad to answer your questions