Why Is Pain Such A Pain?

Don’t you hate the terms that get thrown at you, when you just came in for a sore neck and headaches – long leg, short leg, locked knees, lordosis, sway back, torsion, tilting, adhesions, sub-luxation, misalignment, etc. Any of these could be you and probably is. These are terms that reverberate throughout the health profession and yet are often poorly understood by the client.

What causes pain in the soft tissue? There are six key factors that can cause “myofascial pain syndrome”. Failure to treat all six aspects of this syndrome can lead to recurrent pain.

Ischemia–lack of blood flow to an area thus reducing oxygenation of the muscles.
Trigger points–are areas of increased metabolic waste, which excite neural pathways in the spinal cord causing referred pain.
Nerve compression–increased pain on nerves due to inflammation of soft tissues or bony growths.
Postural Distortion – changes in the bodies’ alignment due to pain, work habits, or sports.
Nutrition–insufficient nutrients from poor diet decreases cellular metabolism and increases irritation of the nervous system.
Emotional Well-being – “Stress” – the word we hate.
Some of these factors are the responsibility of your health professionals’ to deal with and some are YOURS!

Muscles are stimulated by nerves, which enter the spinal cord with two different pathways. One is the long nerve fibers to the brain and the other one goes straight back to the affected muscle. This reflex arc allows the body to respond to its environment on a second- to-second basis without conscious brain involvement.

“As the reflex arc of these tight back muscles becomes well established, the metabolic waste deposits begin to increase, including bradykinin, histamine, prostaglandin, acids, acetylcholine, excesses of potassium ions, and proteolytic enzymes. These substances will excite pain nerve endings and could even damage them. Nutrients and oxygen are decreased and neuro-stimulation to the cord establishes a vicious cycle of spasm and inflammation. The pain is now being caused by both mechanical (pressure) and chemical (waste product) stimulation. As muscular metabolism increases, pain increases. As pain increases, chemical substances are released, inducing more muscular spasm.” – adapted

This vicious cycle is what needs to be broken. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are one solution to this, but they are merely taking away the symptoms not correcting the problem. Massage, flexibility and other manual therapy techniques influence pain stimulation and pain perception. With an increase in blood flow there is an increase in oxygen and nutrients to the area and removal of the wastes and chemicals that cause the pain. The sensation of touch stimulates the pain control center in the brain, which releases enkephalin and serotonin helping to reduce pain.

Bearing in mind that pain is there for a reason and generally indicates body-system imbalances while highlighting unnecessary wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system, there are a number of things you can do to manage pain.

At Assisted Stretch we always ask our clients to evaluate their own pain levels. On a scale of one to ten (ten being unbearable), if you are suffering from a sharp wincing pain in the 3-4 brackets, you should be stopping your training routine to prevent more serious injuries. Other red flag indicators are heat, swelling, reduced muscular strength and that constant droning dull ache. This is the time to send your body to the garage to start the pain management and realignment process.

Symptomatic pain (what the clients feel) is usually a poor indicator as to what is really going on as pain has the ability to refer and spread around the body. We always say that pain usually lies to us!

At Pure Health our pain rehabilitation goes like this:

Postural Analysis to diagnose the muscular imbalances (you need the full picture to assess where your postural symmetry is at)
Target the swelling and inflammation to reduce contraction of tissues.
Restore flexibility and range of motion. Assisted Stretch techniques help to re- program tissues more effectively than passive ones.
Start a gradual regimen of stability training and muscle balancing to increase neuromuscular control.
Try to include regular massage into your training regiments, if nothing else just to increase muscular re-oxygenation.
One piece of good advice, don’t get used to your pain. You shouldn’t let it become part of you.

One client told me that he had a heel pain for the past 6 years and when he walked, the pain shot straight up into his knee, causing him to tilt 30 degrees to the opposite side. “Oh I’ve had that for years just came in to see if you could do anything.”

Clients are often surprised when we work on the totally opposite muscle groups to those that are experiencing pain. A prime example of this is releasing tension in the Iliopsoas (hip-flexors), which when tight, cause the lower lumbar vertebrae to be dragged forward causing an exaggerated C-curve in the lower back putting excessive pressure on the lumbar disks. A simple flexibility routine on the hip-flexor group will drastically reduce lower back tension. We should encourage all the secretaries to do this as statistics suggest that 70% of all office workers are or have suffered from lower back problems! Personally I don’t see how one can work efficiently with such pain levels! Catch it before the disk blows out. It is much harder to deal with when the X-ray shows a narrowed disc. It is bone against bone from there on!!!