Whiplash is a common occurrence in car accidents, and typically effect the stabilizing muscles around the neck. This can cause long-term pain if left untreated. Symptoms often include pain and/or tenderness in the neck, upper back and shoulders, headaches, dizziness and a decrease in cervical range of motion. Muscles affected by whiplash can depend on the movement the neck made at the time of injury so it is important to note how the injury occurred. Whiplash pain usually occurs 24-48 hours after the moment of injury.

Whiplash is often put into 4 numbered categories depending on the severity of the injury. 1 being least injured, with some stiffness or tenderness, 4 being most, with potential fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine. These categories help your massage therapist to better understand what they can do without causing further injury and strain to the neck muscles. It’s common for whiplash injuries to cause adhesions or scar tissue that affect the ability to move the neck within a normal range of motion.

Your massage therapist will likely assess your cervical spine to determine what is plausible to achieve in your treatment. This could include cervical range of motion, palpation of the muscles around the neck, jaw and shoulders, and any special testing to determine trigger points or adhesions. After introducing touch to the cervical spine, massage treatment can include passive, pain-free range of motion, trigger point release in muscles like the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid and levator scapula. It’s important to keep communication open with your therapist, as there can often be spasm and pain in these muscles post-whiplash. If there is little to no pain, and with the clients consent, deeper, more targeted techniques can be used. Longus Colli is a deep neck flexor, and is often a culprit of whiplash pain due to its position deep in the front of the neck. Adhesions or scar tissue in grade 2 to 4 whiplash often build up on this muscle, and releasing it can cause a great amount of pain relief and can increase pain-free range of motion.

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