Vehicle Collisions:A Deeper Injury
As my 10 part series of conditions I see most frequently in my practice, I decided to start with those that have recently experienced a vehicle collision or some type of traumatic or physically violent accident.
I know this isn't a condition and it's more of an incident. It's an incident nonetheless that can cause different type of injuries. From headaches, whiplash, and permanent disabilities.
The reason I wanted to share this first is because the effects of a violent accident go deeper than the physical body. That is where treatment needs to start. Before treating injuries and aches and pains, we need to calm the nervous system down. After such events, our brains can maintain a fight or flight response. Keeping us in an alert state at all times. Making it difficult to rest, relax, and even trust again.
I have worked on people recovering from vehicle accidents that have sustained different types of injuries. Whiplash, spinal injuries, back pain, headaches, etc. All stemming from recent accidents, or accidents that happened years ago. But beneath that, is a nervous system that is now on high alert. I have discovered in my personal practice, that any times it is difficult to treat injuries, until we begin to calm the nervous system down. Bring it from a level of alertness down to a level of relaxation.
Let me explain. Our brain and nervous system is what controls and perceives everything we do and feel within our own bodies. That tight neck you have after a rear end collision? Well that's your nervous system locking you in as a protective mechanism. It wants to keep your neck in place so you don't make any sudden movements and hurt yourself even further. That is actually a good thing! The problem is that many times your nervous system doesn't shut it off.
We all have what is called an autonomic nervous system. These are all of the functions that our brain controls in our bodies that we don't think about. A big part of our autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is our stress response. It's our fight or flight mode. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for relaxation.
When we are involved in an accident of any type, our sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. Our system goes into shock, so much so that many times we don't feel any injuries that were sustained. This process is meant to keep us alive. It keeps us alert, energized, and even pain free for some time. Adrenaline and high cortisol levels are rushing through our blood and brain during these moments. The problem, is that many times it keeps us in that state.
So how do we turn it off? We must then learn how to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. There are many ways to do that. From breathing techniques, meditation, talking to someone and much more. I'm going to share with you how I do that as part of my treatment.
First, massage therapy is highly effective in inducing relaxation. Before starting to treat any injury like whiplash, I want to make sure we do all we can to calm your nervous system down. It is very difficult to work with someone that can not relax or trust me as their therapist. So I will go over breathing techniques first, then begin the session working the neck first. Our head and neck is highly innervated. Not to mention the vagus nerve that exits right below our ears, innervates the side/front part or our neck and goes down all the way down to our organs. The vagus nerve is highly responsible when it comes to induce relaxation and it can be stimulated by breathing and touch.
I will normally work on the neck and shoulders until I can fully perceive a deep relaxation on my client. I can notice changes in muscular tension, breathing patterns, the ease of movement when I move their necks, or they simply fall asleep. Then I will continue with the session until our time is done.
But that is only the beginning. The nervous system is always going to want to default back to an alert state. So the continual stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system on a frequent and daily basis is critical. That is why I will teach my clients breathing/meditation techniques, self-massage techniques, and movement exercises to continue the stimulation with the goal of reversing that alert and tense state. Depending on the severity of the accident and trauma, frequent sessions may be helpful.
Once we have reset our nervous system, it is a lot easier to treat injuries that were sustained in the accident. That goes from recent, to those injuries that are years old. I have worked with people that have been in a high alert and sympathetic nervous state for years and never knew it. It's a beautiful thing to watch someone go from high alert to deeply relaxed and trusting. It truly is a game changer, and one the greatest joys that massage therapy brings to me. The fact that something as simple as human touch can heal deeper that we can even understand.
Vehicle collisions can be very damaging. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally. The effects can go deeper that we can see. So if you are ever in a vehicle collision or have suffered some time of violent accident, I would recommend you consider a good stress reduction massage session. Maybe more than one. Maybe you were in an accident many years ago and still have nagging aches and pains. You may want to consider massage therapy and learning techniques that will help you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.
No matter what your situation or condition is, there is ALWAYS hope!