For most of us, the experience of pain is the great motivator to treatment. We want to feel better as soon and as easily as possible. Some people try pain medication, others acupuncture, still others come in for chiropractic care (sometimes we try all 3!). Whatever vehicle we choose, most of us are looking for that quick fix which gives us pain relief, and lets us return to our busy lives.
Very occasionally, the quick fix is really all we need. But usually it gives no more than temporary relief, and our pain comes back again and again. This is because acute pain and spasm are often symptoms of a deeper, chronic problem.
When we hurt, we tend to protect the painful area by using other parts of our body which don't hurt (if my right arm hurts, I might develop the habit of always picking up objects with my left hand, or I might find that if I lean slightly forward, using the muscles of my upper back, I can lift with my right arm and avoid pain). This is called "compensation". When we compensate for a painful area, we can fool ourelves for years, and convince ourselves that there is no problem. But, in fact, we are creating a very real problem.
Our bodies are made to work in balanced and harmonous ways. When we don't use our muscles correctly, two things can happen. The muscles which hurt, those same muscles we avoid using, become immobilized and wakened, while the muscles we use to compensate, become tense and tight from overuse. In this way, we excentuate muscle imbalances in our bodies.
When muscles weaken, they are not able to endure much activity. This is called "muscle fatigue". The result of muscle fatigue is pain. Think of how much pain you feel after a long hike or work-out when you are out of shape.
You can see the cycle that we get into. I take a hike, I get "acute" pain, I take a pain pill or see my chiropractor for a visit or two, I feel better, I go on with my life, then I spend a day gardening, hurt my back even worse, go back to the chiropractor for a few visits, feel better, etc. Unless we get to the root of the problem, this pain cycle can go on, and on and on, and what's more, it gets worse.
To be successful, treatment must have 2 parts. The first part is the relief of acute pain. After we're out of acute pain, we have to address the way muscles work, relate to eachother, and relate to the rest of the body. This second phase of the treatment is called "rehabilitation".
During the rehabilitation phase of treatment, balance, coordination, strength, endurance, and mobility are improved. This creates a harmony throughout the body, and not only allows us to function normally, but also to excel in our endevours.
In future blogs, we will look at several common injuries, discuss specific rehab exercises, supplements which help you heal, and some of my favorite recipes for your health. So stay tuned.