No one likes to hurt. Pain interferes with life in so many ways. It is depressing and robs us of vitality and energy. Understanding the cause of pain actually guides us to strategies to stop or minimize pain. Pain is there for a reason. It is the body’s cry for help, letting you know that something is wrong. Think of it as an early warning system so that you pay attention and do not ignore the problem. Tune-in and pay attention to your body. Excruciating, sudden pain may warrant a trip to the ER. Outside of these rare emergencies, there is a lot you can do for yourself.
There are many different types of nerve fibers in the body and they conduct different kinds of information at different speeds
Ultimately, it’s all in your head. By that, I mean that the brain must perceive the pain or it simply will not be felt. So, we can use this information to our advantage. If you strain your arm, your first instinct is to rub or hold it. This actually fires off mechanoreceptors and these nerve fibers fire more quickly than pain fibers, so the pain message is slowed down from getting to the brain. The same thing happens when you move around. Let’s say you have a headache and you go for a walk. The proprioceptive nerve receptors reside in the joints and muscles and they get real busy when you move around, again distracting the brain. The brain is so busy processing this information that the pain receptors are “benched” for a while. This is why coaches say “Walk it off, you’ll be fine.” Now you have to be smart about this. If you just sprained your ankle, that is not a good time to take a walk. The same thing happens when you apply ice to an injured area. Not only does ice help reduce swelling and inflammation, but it also helps with pain. This is because the nerve fibers that carry the temperature message are much faster than pain fibers. So, you can reduce pain quickly with ice. Be sure to protect your skin so you don’t get frostbite.
Many people are dealing with a more chronic (long-term) pain and this can be a little different. But the solutions are very similar. Many people have the experience of an old injury that healed years ago, but periodically flares up and can become very painful. Often this happens right before a cold front, storm or a drop in barometric pressure. This is a real thing. We see it often in the office. The day before the cold front, the phone rings off the wall. Scientists now know why. When we injure ourselves, especially a joint, in order to heal, the body grows a number of new little nerves into the injured tissues. They act as the “project manager” to organize the repair of tissues, mend the tears, and then clean-up the debris. It is an amazing process. But, the end result is that those nerve fibers don’t go away. We are left with tissues that are now more sensitive, weaker, stiffer, and less flexible. And the Central Nervous System has memorized pain. These are joints that can become arthritic and this is the kind of pain that responds really well to motion. Adjustments and exercise are the enemies of arthritis. Restoring motion to the joint with an adjustment gets the proprioceptors firing and the pain fibers no longer have the brain’s attention. If you follow-up with regular exercise, your joints will be happier, healthier and you will have less pain. Start slowly and listen to your body.
- Assess the pain, listen to your body. Do I need to have this evaluated?
- Does it feel better if I move, stretch or massage the area? If so, do this.
- Apply ice 20 minutes on/then 40 minutes off and repeat 3-4X/day. Protect your skin with a cloth.
- Come in to have your spine checked for subluxation and get an Adjustment!
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