The state of Oregon stipulates that in cases of auto-related injury, massage must be covered by auto insurance carriers, so Zama offers a specialized massage program specifically designed for such clients. Whiplash, back strain and shoulder injury are common complaints, says Zama co-owner Lynn Bukowski, and clients under the care of a physician can get a prescription for massage that notes specific areas of injury. “For Auto Injury services [60 min./prices vary], we massage only the areas affected,” Bukowski explains. “We employ either ice or heat to hasten recovery, and use cupping techniques—pulling muscles up and away, rather than the more typical pushing method.”
Twice-weekly appointments are recommended for four to six weeks, then once a week for a few months, but some clients may visit for a full year (sessions can be shortened for those with more acute conditions, who are more sensitive to touch). Clients complete intake forms before each session to share pain levels and track progress, and they also see their doctors every four to six weeks to evaluate recovery.
The spa works with several chiropractors and acupuncturists in the area to obtain referrals, and many car accident victims find the spa’s services through online searches and word of mouth.
Bukowski explains that it can be a challenge for therapists to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens for individual clients (insurance companies will take issue if the spa strays from the plan), and then there’s additional insurance-related legwork—writing an extensive report after each session and billing the insurance company, for instance—which means that it can often take 90 days, or even years, for the spa to receive payment. “A lot of therapists don’t want to do insurance billing,” admits Bukoswki. “But we’re ultimately glad to take that risk—it’s all about us helping the injured client.”
Unfortunately, those who have just suffered auto accidents are often hesitant to visit a spa because they don’t want to make more claims and already have so much to worry about. “They can feel overwhelmed, which creates anxiety on top of the injury; it all comes up when you touch them, and we’re able to help manage all that,” says Bukowski. And, despite all the challenges, Zama therapists “love to perform this service because it’s more of a challenge and more fun; you get to see someone enter in excruciating pain and see them leave a few months later in an almost normal state.”