There’s no doubt about it—pain can be a very powerful motivator. In fact, acute or chronic pain—typically in the back, neck, hips or shoulders—is one of the most common reasons that people visit a chiropractor. Although patients want the chiropractor to help with the underlying problem, relieving their pain is a very important step in helping them resume their day-to-day lives with some measure of independence and enjoyment.
A Structure and Mechanics Perspective
Chiropractic treatment for pain rests on the principle that healing will occur as a natural function of the body once it is in correct alignment. Conversely, misalignment will lead to abnormal wear and tear on the body’s musculoskeletal system as well as reduced nervous system function, often resulting in weakness, restricted movement and pain. Misalignment can occur over time as the result of bad posture, poor biomechanics, repetitive activities and degenerative disease. It may also happen suddenly due to trauma from an auto-, work- or sports-related accident.
In addition to reducing or eliminating musculoskeletal pain (a chief symptom of many structural or mechanical problems), chiropractic treatment aims to restore natural functioning to the affected area. In practice, these two goals go hand-in-hand. Pain often occurs in the shoulder, for example, because of some type of injury or condition that is affecting the muscles, bones or connective tissues that make up the joint. Once this underlying injury is treated, the shoulder will be both pain-free and able to move normally.
The Role of Manual Therapies
The body’s framework is comprised of many bones, muscles and connective tissues (like ligaments, tendons and cartilage) as well as nerves that provide feedback and help coordinate activity. All of these have the potential to cause pain when stressed or damaged. Muscle strains and spasms, for instance, can occur as the result of a specific event or a longer-term postural problem. In the latter case, muscle tightness and spasms may not only be causing pain but may also be preventing the body from returning to its natural alignment.
Patients will often involuntarily tense their muscles around an area of pain, which can both prolong the healing time and increase their discomfort. In these types of cases, chiropractic care can help promote healing and relieve pain by creating the best possible conditions for repair to take place. Soft tissue massage is frequently used by chiropractors to relax tight muscles and stop spasms so that the spine can be moved back into its proper position. At this point, pain should be considerably lessened, if not relieved completely.
Spinal manipulation or mobilization techniques will often be used to correct any underlying postural problems. Manipulation or mobilization helps the vertebrae to resume their natural positions and eases the muscle strain associated with being out of balance, thus relieving pain. Trapped nerves, which can also cause considerable pain, are often released as a result of chiropractic adjustments.
A Well-Rounded Treatment Plan
Some painful injuries may require time to heal, such as those that involve damage to the shoulder’s rotator cuff or damage to spinal discs. While chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue massage are often very helpful in relieving both acute and chronic pain, Dr. Ratio may decide to incorporate other types of therapies into your treatment plan as a way of managing short-term pain or accelerating long-term healing. Depending on the situation, he may recommend cold laser therapy, application of cold or hot packs, use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or acupuncture. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications may also be considered for short-term pain relief.
The fundamental goal of chiropractic care is to support the body’s own healing processes. At the same time, chiropractic care can also provide effective short-term relief from pain related to a wide range of injuries and health conditions. If you or someone you care about is suffering from acute or chronic pain, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. There’s no good reason to live with pain, especially when there are safe and effective options available. As a chiropractic physician, Dr. Ratio is an expert in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal and nerve pain. We work closely with our patients to help them understand the causes of their pain and choose the best treatment options for them. We can help you too!