Majority of the people we see, come to us for help with some sort of pain. The brutal truth is, virtually everyone, at some point in their lifetime will experience pain. It is not a matter of IF, but WHEN. Also, understand that feeling pain is a good thing, it is a warning from our body requesting change. When we are in pain, there is a very predictable cycle, that we believe is beneficial for you to understand. This also may help you understand why we may be doing a certain therapies, like- spinal adjustment, exercise, or manual therapy. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of pain, and what our body is going through during the process.
For the most part we deal with conditions or pain occurring with the musculoskeletal system. That means pain with the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, or peripheral nerves. No matter what may be driving the pain, everyone will go through a very similar experience. Let us take a look at exhibit A, the Musculoskeletal Pain Cycle…..
This pain cycle is, for the most part, a perpetual cycle…meaning until something is addressed it will continue. Our goal, as chiropractors, is to intervene and break the cycle at one or many of the stages. Let’s go through each stage and what exactly is occurring for a greater understanding.
We will begin with pain, because typically that is why people come to us in the first place. Pain may develop for a multitude of reasons- trauma (we rolled our ankle stepping off a curb), posture (yes, sitting at a desk 8 hours daily can lead to some pain), overuse (not giving your body adequate rest), or many other reasons. Pain is a noxious stimuli, meaning it is a warning signal from our body telling us something we are doing is creating actual damage or potential damage somewhere in the body.
Pain leads to voluntary muscle contractions. These contractions result in compensatory movements, unnatural movements with the hopes of preventing further injury. Whether that is bracing, limping, avoiding certain movements, we just move differently when in pain. Typically we see the voluntary contraction around the site of pain.
One result of extended time under voluntary muscular contraction is a decrease in local blood flow. There is circulatory retention (poor circulation of blood) when muscles stay contracted for a prolonged period. If you think of blood as your body’s grocery store, which supplies our tissues with oxygen and nutrients to ensure optimal function, a lack of blood flow can be detrimental. This could lead to diminished healing or extended healing times.
Over time involuntary muscular contractions develop. Meaning the muscles will be in a shortened state with increased tension. “I carry my stress in my shoulders”, everyone knows this feeling. The muscles that just feel tight, and seem to not let up, no matter how much we stretch them.
The involuntary muscular contraction leads to a disruption in the normal resting tension and length of our muscles. These muscles will no longer function properly and will result in reduced range of motion or restricted movement.
The culmination of everything prior will lead to dysfunctional movement patterns. Not only does this affect the primary issue but this may also lead to potential injury elsewhere.
Like mentioned earlier this is a perpetual cycle and will continue until it is addressed. Our goal is to help break this cycle with a variety of methods. To see some of these methods, feel free to visit our services tab located at the home page. If you have any questions, feel free to call the office.