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falling-off-bikeI am writing this article because I am regularly hearing from my beloved Alumni, family and friends that they have had accidents; or their friends, family and clients have suffered accidents. I have some advice to share because the trend seems to be to give these events little attention (if that is at all possible) and just carry on. This can be a big mistake.

If you have:

  • fallen down stairs
  • been in any kind of a car accident
  • run into a tree skiing
  • fallen down on your roller blades
  • slipped on the ice
  • etc…

YOU have had an accident. For the sake of this article, let’s assume these things:

  • Every event that involves you at a higher speed running into something, or a thing running into you as it was rapidly flying through space is an accident. In other words, either you ran into it, or it ran into you, and the “its” could be just about anything.
  • If you are air lifted or carried to a hospital in anyway with bleeding, serious trauma, unconsciousness etc., obviously seeing a Doctor is your first defense!
  • My main motivation for this article is the myriad of whiplash victims I have encountered or heard about who are in a mild fender bender and go about their lives, when debilitating pain presents 6 months or later after the event. Often when this happens, the potential coverage for treatment is no longer available.

Normally when you are in an accident, you are in shock. The level and intensity of that shock will be determined by the event, the damages, the injuries, and by who you are constitutionally. When you are in shock, the natural thing for you to do is to begin to cope as best as you can with the situation. You will start processing the event in the realm of “how can I make sure everything is ok”. You will look at the property involved, the people involved, start to negotiate the planned events that are getting derailed, (if you are able to) and try to shape the event in such a way so it will drop conveniently into your reality in a way that it will fit, and everything will be just fine.

Within that negotiating process, you will be forced to pay attention to pain in your body. This is not a time to be a tough guy or girl… this is the time to listen to the feedback your body is giving you. Your body is going to have endorphins coming to the rescue to help you cope with the scene, so you will not have a real accurate assessment of the feedback your body is giving you. You are not going to feel the pain that truly represents the physical damage….yet.

You will naturally try to diminish the extent of things to help you cope. This can be a real big problem because you must advocate for yourself, and/or have someone else advocate for you if you are not able to. It’s way too easy to say “oh I’m fine… I just feel a little soreness there, it will be fine tomorrow… I’ll just take an Advil and put some ice on it”. In this day and age and culture we are all conditioned to say “it’s no big deal… I’m fine”, and tough it out. You may not BE fine, and if you say you are fine, and convince yourself you ARE fine, and convince your advocate that you are fine, you could miss out on opportunities to receive treatment, AND THE COVERAGE OF TREATMENT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO,  that may have a phenomenal impact on the immediate and long term outcome of your recovery.

If your accident is anything beyond a minor incident you should see a doctor. Not being a doctor, you are not qualified to diagnose anything at this point so you need to go to a doctor to figure out what damage you have truly sustained. Do you have a concussion, do you have bruises and contusions, is anything broken, is anything ruptured, is anything bleeding that you can see or can’t see? These are the issues the DOCTOR is going to check for you and make sure you are cleared or treated for. The DOCTOR is the one to help you make sure there are no hidden problems that could potentially be REALLY bad right now or later.

What the doctor may not see and may not consider, or may not consider a problem for you later is SOFT TISSUE DAMAGE AND THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCE OF THOSE.

You may not fully realize the long term effects of the soft tissue damage (muscle, tendon, ligament and the nerves that work with these structures) until several months, if not years after the accident.

Depending on the musculoskeletal damages you have sustained in the accident, the support you receive in the early stages of your healing could greatly influence the long term impact of the accident on your life.

If any of your injuries involve a sprain, strain, broken bones, soft tissue injury, whiplash, or surgery, Massage Therapy can be very supportive to your healing process and have a powerful and positive influence over the final result. Depending on the nature of your accident and the injuries, you most likely will not be able to receive massage therapy until the chronic stage of your healing.  If you are working with a doctor, neurologist, chiropractor or an osteopath, you can ask them about working with a massage therapist, and see if they are open to writing you a prescription. It’s possible that your insurance plan will cover massage therapy for you.

Throughout your healing process, massage therapy can greatly support you in coming back to yourself as much as you can in the face of the trauma you have experienced. Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Strength Training and Emotional/Mental Healthcare professionals may also be part of your recovery team.

If what has happened to you is the fault of another party, it is important that you receive all the care you need, keep solid records, and if necessary get an attorney to represent you. Don’t settle for as long as it takes to finally understand the long term damages you have sustained. This can take months to years. I recommend you keep a daily journal to record what you are feeling from day to day.

I hope that none of us are in any accidents! In the event you are I wish you a swift and complete recovery! Hopefully at least one piece of this advice will come in handy. No matter what, do not try to sweep what is happening under the rug and tough things out. You must pay attention to your body and what is going on as the healing process unfolds or you could miss a great opportunity to receive support and save yourself from bigger problems down the road. Specifically, pain resulting from musculoskeletal dysfunction.

If you do not have any injuries from your accident, please do take time to rest and find ways to nurture yourself before you go back to your normal day to day activities. Even a minor accident is a trauma that you will need to recover from.

Why am I qualified to give you advice? I have been in the field of Massage Therapy for 26 years as an educator, school founder, curriculum architect and a practitioner. I have had hundreds if not thousands of client’s who present with chronic injuries from accidents in the past that impact their lives later on. I have been in accidents myself. I have been in 2 major and 3 minor car accidents, I have fallen off horses, bikes, skateboards, and had a stint as a Karate enthusiast where I was falling hard, being punched and fighting. If you want to know more about me you can read my bio here.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill K. Berkana BCTMB Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista