Since I began doing massage for motor vehicle accident patients, many people have asked me what the difference is. It’s still massage, right? The answer, of course, is yes. But the difference between motor vehicle accident massage and regular massage lies within the treatment protocol followed, where the massage is performed on the body, technique, as well as the intake, outtake, and follow-up.
Yes – both types of patients are receiving bodywork, there is usually some sort of oil or lotion that is used, and all the other standard protocols such as draping, dressing down to one’s comfort level, as well as music and an intake form are followed. However, for a motor vehicle accident massage, the patient will have more paperwork to fill out and we will also spend more time at the beginning of the session to do an initial evaluation – this may take up to thirty minutes depending on the severity of the accident and the patient’s abilities. After the session, we will create a personalized treatment plan which will include stretches, exercises, and other self-care tips to follow. I also typically work in close contact with the patient’s physician or referring provider to ensure that the patient is receiving the care that they need.
Massage for motor vehicle accident patients is also different from traditional massage in that it is very focused work. With a traditional Swedish massage, a client typically receives a full body, light to firm pressure massage in order to induce relaxation and stimulate the lymphatic system. A motor vehicle accident massage is a targeted massage in which the therapist only focuses on areas that were directly impacted from the car accident. In most auto accident cases, many patients report neck, back, and hip pain, so those are the areas that are usually worked on.
As previously stated, a Swedish massage is for relaxation, so long, gliding massage strokes are used, usually with ample lotion or oil. For a motor vehicle accident massage, we may or may not use oil or lotion, depending on the techniques being used. We will also most likely use different techniques to promote the release of tight muscles and fascial tissue such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Although we may use light pressure, especially at first when the patient is in the acute phase, we may or may not increase to deeper pressure, depending on the patient’s comfort level.
Regarding paperwork, for a basic massage, clients only fill out the standard intake form once every year. Motor vehicle accident patients not only fill out the standard intake form, but they also need to fill out a form with their car insurance information, including an active claim number. They’ll also need to bring in a note from their referring physician or chiropractor, and fill out a pain assessment form prior to treatment, two weeks after the first session, additional pain assessments at one month out and each month after that until the end of their treatments, with one at the last session. This is so we can track the progress of their pain, seeing when symptoms come back – if they do – and how they were feeling at the beginning and compare to how they feel at the end of treatments.
Finally, with a standard Swedish massage, I typically instruct the client to drink at least a liter of water in the next couple of hours. I may also give some light and basic stretches and then we book another massage anywhere between two and six weeks out. With motor vehicle accident patients, I not only instruct them to drink at least a liter of water in the next couple of hours after the massage, I create an individualized stretching, exercise, and self-care plan to aid in the recovery and increase strength and range of motion. I may offer suggestions on different foods to eat or supplements to take to help with inflammation, as well as icing or heating protocols to follow. We also create a massage schedule, which typically includes two sessions per week for six weeks to begin. The length and frequency of massage depends on the patient’s comfort level and time constraints, as well as what the referring physician or chiropractor recommends. Age as well as general health of the patient may also impact how long it takes them to recover.
As you can see, there are many differences between a traditional massage and massage for motor vehicle accident patients. Where on the body the massage is performed, pressure, technique, as well as paperwork and a prescription greatly differ between them. Receiving massage as soon as possible after an auto injury is crucial to a quick recovery and helps to break down scar tissue before it has formed, which will create compensation patterns that may take years to undo. So don’t wait, get the work you need now.For more information, read my other blogs on massage for motor vehicle accidents – What You Need to Know About Motor Vehicle Accident Massage and Your Auto Insurance, 5 Steps to Receiving Massage Therapy for Your Motor Vehicle Accident, and Why I Love Working With Motor Vehicle Accident Patients.