Can massage therapy be a good treatment option for concussion management?

Ask the Professional – Sarah Tyler RMT


Q: Can massage therapy be a good treatment option for concussion management?

A: Concussions are a complex injury that can affect many different aspects of your health, and how you manage it can greatly affect your recovery. When it comes to rehab during initial healing from injury, the main focuses typically will be mood management, sleep hygiene, headache control, and cardiovascular exercise. Massage therapy can be an excellent addition to your concussion management at ProActive rehab with the RMTs working with our concussion trained physiotherapists with an allied health team approach. Massage therapy is most effective for the relaxation and tension headache reduction aspect of recovery.

Massage therapy, with a focus on soothing the nervous system and promoting relaxation, is a simple treatment option for those delicate times at the beginning of recovery. The focus of massage would be to target the areas that promote relaxation – head, neck, shoulders and possibly hands and feet. Getting the nervous system into a relaxed state will help reduce mental and physical stress, leading to better mood management and promoting sleep (getting you sleepy before bedtime.) Along with the massage, our RMTs can provide relaxation strategies to use at home when you aren’t at the clinic – mindfulness, meditation, stretching routines, and breathing exercises. The focus of massage therapy in these earlier stages of concussion recovery will simply be relaxation. Once symptoms have reduced and the person continues to improve, more specific focus to muscle tension relief and deeper focus on the neck can start.

Headache is one of the most common complaints in people with concussions. Headaches in and of themselves are complex in nature, having many sources other than simply tightness or muscle tension. Common headache types associated with concussions are migraines, tension headaches and cervicogenic headaches (meaning it is related to the structures of the neck and often associated with whiplash injury.) Massage therapy can help soothe all these types of headaches including soothing the nervous system in a relaxation-type massage or more specific massage therapy sessions with attention drawn to the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders. Whiplash is a common injury that is seen with concussions when the method of injury includes a forceful back and forth movement of the neck. Because whiplash is a common injury associated with concussions, headaches stemming from structures in the neck are a very common headache type seen in concussion injuries. Massage therapy techniques applied to the muscles of the back, side and front of the neck can help relieve pain and tightness from whiplash and its associated headache.

From this information, it is clear that massage therapy can play a key role in recovery from concussion.  If you or someone you know is struggling with the symptoms of a concussion then please give us a call (705 788 1480) so we can help get recovery back on track.

{It should be noted that registered massage therapists are not mental health professionals so when we talk about mood management, the purpose is to introduce strategies to cope with stress and offer resources. When it comes to people with specific mood disorders or in mental health crisis, our role would be to refer to a mental health provider that can help with specific treatment when necessary}.


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