Pain appears in your body when something isn’t working properly. It’s your body talking to you. Pain killers mask this feedback mechanism and do not improve the underlying cause. Pain is not a mystery, and the more you know about what causes pain, the better you will be able to find an adequate solution. 97-98% of pain is mechanical in origin, meaning it is due to a dysfunction of the joints, muscles, or other soft tissues, and can typically be solved with conservative measures.
There are 206 bones in the human body. Our bones are connected to each other with joints comprised of ligaments and cartilage. When our joints are moving and functioning properly, they send proprioceptive information to our brain. This is information regarding position sense and tissue location, managed unconsciously by our cerebellum. When a joint ceases to have full proper range of motion due to physical trauma, repetitive stress, emotional or chemical influences, instead of sending proprioceptive information to the brain, joints send nociceptive, or pain information. Not only does the dysfunctional joint send pain information, but it will also influence surrounding tissues to become dysfunctional and cause them to send pain information as well.
When a joint stops moving properly, the soft tissue connecting the joint becomes affected. Muscles that connect dysfunctional joints can become stretched when the joint is not moving properly. To control our balance and posture, our brain will cause stretched muscles to tighten up. This leads to muscle spasm, joint immobilization, and inflammation. Spasmed muscles now will send pain information to the brain, and local inflammation can compress other tissues including nerves which also begin to send pain to the brain. Spasmed muscles will pull on other joints, causing them to lock up as well, creating a vicious cycle of joint dysfunction and spasm. Over time this lack of motion can create adhesions in the joint capsule causing long lasting dysfunction, decreased ligamentous tolerance, and setting the stage for degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease.
Tendons and ligaments are delicate tissues. They don’t have a great blood supply like muscles do, and require more time to heal. Repetitive tasks like mousing, typing, having poor posture when sitting, or doing excessive amounts of exercise with inadequate rest can prevent sufficient healing, creating microtrauma to these tissues along with constant low grade inflammation. This inflammation itself can cause pain, and can also lead to painful tendinitis. Further, microtrauma will create scar tissue which may weaken the tissue and lead to more significant injury down the line.
Next time you feel pain in your body, don’t cover it up with pain killers. Pain killers mask the pain, but allow the underlying cause of the pain to continue getting worse. Address the cause and try to find a resolution. Chiropractors are experts in facilitating proper function of the spine, skeleton and nervous system. Remember, pain is an indicator something is wrong. When you are working correctly, there is no reason to be in pain!