By Blake Meyer, DC
Pain is a frustrating thing. One day you feel great, ready to tackle the world, then the next you can barely sit, walk, lift your arm etc without excruciating pain. Why does this happen? Was it an injury that you can point a finger directly to or did it ‘just come on over time?’ Most of us tend to deal with our pain and hope it will eventually just go away. And oftentimes it does. Our bodies are impressive healers that typically correct over time. But when pain becomes too severe, interferes with what we love, or has simply gone on too long is when most seek help.
Many people self-treat their pain with the use of over-the-counter medications paired with heat, ice, rest or other home remedies, and that’s not a bad approach. Many occurrences of pain will resolve on their own by simply remaining active but being conscious of not overdoing-it. The key for recovering the quickest is to figure out the origin of your pain, which can be broken down into three main categories:
- Mechanical Pain
- Chemical Pain
- Psychosocial Pain (this doesn’t mean you’re crazy)
In most cases these categories are not mutually exclusive, but figuring out which is playing the largest role allows the most effective treatment to be implemented. This classification can be applied to pain at any location in the body.
Let’s look at the first: Mechanical pain implies the origin has something to do with the physical parts of your body, such as the bones, joints or muscles. Maybe you injured one of the discs in your back by lifting a heavy load, pulled a muscle by overexertion, or have a genetic anomaly such as scoliosis. These are all examples of mechanical problems, something ‘wrong with the parts.’ Mechanical problems typically respond best to manual therapies such as chiropractic, physical therapy, or massage therapy. By directly addressing the structure that is injured (or the one causing the pain), that patient typically experiences the greatest outcome. If someone has told you, “You have to go see my chiropractor! He adjusts me then I feel great!” then they are usually someone with mechanical related pain.
The second type of pain, chemical, can be a bit trickier because it’s typically present alongside the other two forms. This type of pain is due to the natural responses your body creates, most namely inflammation. Inflammation is an important process our body creates in response to injury (redness, swelling, heat), but we want to limit its extent. Ongoing inflammation can wreak havoc on our muscles and joints, increasing the pain we perceive and create further damage. An ankle sprain and various forms of arthritis are classic examples of acute and chronic inflammation, respectively. Chemically driven pain is most commonly treated with anti-inflammatory medication and is why ibuprofen works so effectively for acute aches and pains. Your medical doctor can prescribe many types of anti-inflammatory drugs that are most appropriate for your individual case. More holistic approaches include ice and anti-inflammatory foods, found here –> http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/anti-inflammatory-diet-road-to-good-health. The latter approach is more effective for long-term results, as the classic drawback to medication is it typically acts as a band-aid. If your pain is chemically driven, a chemical approach is right for you.
The final type of pain is driven by psychosocial factors. As mentioned above, this doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Many people say their pain comes on when they’re stressed or a unfortunate life event happens. Our body can express stress in countless ways, including physical. These are typically paired with chemical pain, so medications often-time are short-term ‘fixes’ that cover up the real problem. However you de-stress best will commonly alleviate the pain. Keep to healthy approaches such as reading, watching a favorite movie, spending time with family etc. But don’t confuse these tactic as distractions. Failing to ‘take-on’ and/or accept the stressful event prolongs its effects on the body.
Chiropractors are a great place to start in classifying what type of pain you have. We can quickly determine if your pain is mechanical in nature and offer a whole host of treatments to effectively address it. If your pain doesn’t appear that it will respond appropriately to a mechanical approach, other holistic methods can be introduced, or we can refer you to the appropriate health care provider. Don’t let pain prevent you from doing what you love!
– Blake Meyer, DC
Dr. Meyer is the owner of, and chiropractor at Colorado Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He lives there with his fiance Rachel where they enjoy hiking, skiing, and spending time outdoors.More