BLOG # 3 APRIL 2022
When someone is suffering with chronic pain, a natural reaction is to cut back on physical activity. This is understandable because it often hurts to move and there is a fear of making it worse. However, this is the worst thing you can do for six reasons.
1) If you do nothing, nothing good will happen and the pain will continue.
2) If you are suffering with chronic pain, it is highly likely that some key muscles have lost a good part of their range of motion. Such muscles are highly vulnerable to further injuries and we certainly have plenty of names for such injuries like pulls, twists, turns, strains, sprains, cricks, yanks, wrenches and tears. A typical scenario is one moment you are fine and a simple movement like bending over to pick something up off the floor or reaching overhead for something on a shelf and the next moment you are in excruciating pain. Sometimes it does not even require a movement to go from a pain-free state into a state of pain. For example, a very common experience is going to sleep without pain and waking up with low back pain.
3) When there is chronic pain, not only have muscles been adversely affected, but several harmful things have happened to the nerve cells (primary neurons) that connect them to the spinal cord and brain. These cells become sensitized. They begin to fire more intensely and frequently, they continue to fire long after the activity that started them firing has ended, and they begin to respond to stimuli that previously were not painful like touch and pressure. In addition, they release several chemicals from their endings into the muscles that keep the nerve cells firing. They also activate motor nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain that keep the muscles in a shortened state and under tension. In this state, the brain sends messages back out to the affected muscles that result in inflammation and swelling. Now all of the conditions are in place for a self-sustaining, vicious cycle of chronic pain that is not easily broken.
4) Once primary neurons become sensitized, they in turn sensitize the nerve cells that they connect with in the spinal cord and brain so that entire pain pathways become altered. Once such changes are in place, many nerve cells in pain pathways will have increased their firing rates and enlarged the areas of the body that they respond to. Interneurons that normally slow down or stop normal transmission in pain pathways become damaged and no longer perform their inhibitory role. Once such changes have occurred, all of the ingredients of a chronic pain state are in place Unfortunately, once such changes have occurred, there is no single drug or exercise that will undo them.
5) The longer muscles remain shortened and under excessive tension, the greater the possibility that they will damage the bones and cartilages of joints and, in the case of back and neck muscles, the disks that lie between the vertebrae of the spinal column. Once such osteoarthritic damage has occurred, it may not be possible to reverse them.
6) And most importantly, if you can regain lost range of motion and eliminate sites of contraction in affected muscles, the pain will lessen and you will feel better!
These six reasons point out why it is so important not to let chronic pain persist and go untreated. Left untreated, not only will the pain persist and diminish the quality of your life, but it will cause changes in your body that will not be easily reversed. To avoid this, the pain will have to be confronted by doing the work needed to regain lost range of motion in all of the muscles that have become either shortened or are existing under excessive tension.
Be assured that there is a way out of this. The steps are presented in detail in The Book and also will be presented in upcoming blogs.