In a fall, typically our pride is hurt, and both mentally and physically, it can be literally a pain to deal with. When we fall, our instinct is to catch ourselves and stop that fall. When we do this, we tense up other muscles and can potentially create other body pains with this tensing. If we slip on a patch of ice and fall down onto our hip/buttocks, there is a chance we could also create a whiplash type movement through the upper body and hit our head. A few things happen in this scenario. One, the muscles of the hip and low back become twitchy, literally, like an eyebrow twitch or a leg muscle twitch. This can continue for a while, until it is addressed, or the muscle settles into a position that creates a pull on the body, creating pain. Two, the muscle or group of muscles can go into spasm, creating more pain and discomfort through multiple areas of the body. Thirdly, the vibration of a fall can resonate up the spine and into the neck, creating other things that need to be addressed.
Recently I had a client who fell on the ice outside of her house going to work one morning. She called me a couple of hours later to ask if I could see her. This is important to do, simply because those muscles that are twitching or in spasm can be addressed within a timely fashion. As a Massage Therapist, I like to see people on my table within 24 hours, and not put it off. My client came in for a lunch time session and described what happened, how she fell, what areas hit the ground, etc. When she was on the table, I was feeling what her body was telling me, from her neck, down to her hips. Certainly she had tight areas due to not only the fall, but stress and life in general, but when I got to her hips, I was actually able to feel the muscles twitching! This was exciting to me, simply because I have had clients come in after falls before, but not so quickly that I was able to feel that movement in the muscle.
So, what do we do with this information? How do we proceed from a massage standpoint? Being able to feel the muscles moving like that is a great thing, but we also don't want to work the tissue too much so it can't recover. What I was able to do with my client was massage the neck and head, very gently, and work my way down her spine, also in a gentle manner. If we work too deeply the muscles can respond in a negative way and not relax the way that they need to. Gentle work is the way to go at first, in order to get things to calm down and work through the trauma that they just experienced. In moving forward with the massage procedures, after I worked with my client for 60 minutes the day of the fall, we scheduled another appointment for her 3 days later. Why? In order to keep the muscles loose and in the position we relaxed them into, we need to get back in and keep them loose in a specific amount of time. Why again? If we don't get back in 3 days later, there is a chance those muscles can go into spasm and create even more muscular issues than the initial fall did. The consistency of keeping the tissues soft and pliable gets people back on their feet feeling good and makes for a quicker, more efficient recovery from a fall. After the 3 day appointment, we like to see the client again in 5-7 days. Again, this is to maintain the consistency of keeping the muscles loose, so they don't settle in a position they shouldn't. Also, we can check in with them to see if they have developed any other muscular aches and pains that could be side effects from the fall. Usually in this appointment we can work a little deeper into the tissues, but again, we go by what we feel and every body is different and responds differently. What is good for one body, isn't always good for the other. The next step is for the client to come in again in 10-14 days. This type of protocol is so that we can help the client through a fall, both mentally and physically.
Massage is a great tool for recovering from falls and putting that in your tool box for life is putting you one step ahead of a fall. No matter if you fall on ice, while rollerskating, snowboarding, or being graceful doesn't come naturally, we are here to help you through those events.
Cheryl Harris - Licensed Master Massage Therapist