Chronic pain contributes to poor quality of life and people who suffer from chronic conditions are often unable to complete simple every-day tasks without pain. Although complete remission of pain may not be achievable, pain can be managed with a patient-centred multidisciplinary approach to allow improved participation in activities of daily living thus reduced suffering and improved quality of life.
Untreated, chronic pain can be a debilitating issue which may permeate all areas of life. It can affect people’s sleep; place strain on relationships; restrict the ability to work and earn an income; limit social activities; affect self esteem and emotional wellbeing.
Adopting a holistic approach to the treatment and management of chronic pain can bring about positive results and greatly enhance quality of life. As part of a comprehensive management plan, massage can be of great assistance as it has the capacity to affect all the body’s systems and is particularly effective when the pain is of a muscular nature.
When the body experiences trauma, muscles contract around the painful site in an attempt to reduce further injury. If pain is ongoing, the muscles can become habitually tight. These tight muscles can restrict the range of motion in joints and press on nerves, thereby causing numbness, tingling or loss of strength. Massage helps to loosen tight muscles and lengthen muscle fibres. It can increase joint mobility by breaking up scar tissue and increasing pliability of connective tissue, thereby reducing the pressure placed on the joint and surrounding structures. Myofascial release techniques help shift chronic strain patterns which may develop from compensatory postures adopted to accommodate pain.
Chronically tight muscles do not contract and relax like normal muscles which results in reduced blood flow and oxygenation of tissue. The result is a build up of waste products in muscle.
Therapeutic massage is a simple, effective and readily available support measure for dealing with chronic pain.
Understanding the pain cycle: The pain cycle is a complex chain of events which reinforce each other. It can begin with injury, illness or even stress, but each element can trigger or amplify another, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
Muscle tension: Muscle tension from stress, repetitive activity or overuse can be painful. Tense muscles are prone to injury, adding to the problem. Worse, muscles automatically contract around any painful site to support and protect the area. If your original pain is not resolved, muscles may become habitually contracted. In this way, painful muscles tension can spread, even pressing on nerves to cause tingling, numbness and more pain in new areas.
Reduced circulation: Like a sponge that is squeezed, when a muscle is tight and contracted, it can’t hold much fluid, so circulation is impaired. Irritating waste products can accumulate, leaving you feeling fatigued and sore.
Over time, areas with poor circulation form trigger points in both muscles and their connective tissue coverings, called fascia. Trigger points are highly irritable spots that can refer pain elsewhere in the body. For example, a trigger point in your hip can cause pain down your leg. As muscles tense around referred pain, the cycle spreads.
Restricted movement: Pain and muscle tension can make even simple actions difficult and tiring. This impairs your ability to exercise – your most important means for maintaining mobility and good circulation throughout your body. Eventually, contracted muscles and fascia can develop areas called adhesions, where tissues “adhere” to each other, further restricting movement and contributing to your pain.
Breaking the cycle: Massage can break the cycle of pain with its ability to address most of the pain cycle elements.
• Massage relieves muscle tension, stretching and kneading tight muscles and calming the nervous system.
• When muscles relax, pressure on nerves is reduced, relieving related pain in distant sites.
• As massage relaxes the nervous system, blood vessels dilate to increase circulation. Irritating waste products are flushed away and replaced with healing oxygen and nutrients.
• Specific massage techniques release trigger points. Muscle stretching and improved circulation from massage can prevent their return.
• Certain techniques increase the pliability of adhesions. Along with reduced muscle tension, this helps prevent new injuries.
• Other massage techniques work to improve range of motion in specific areas, further helping to restore normal movement.
Taken together, the many benefits of massage, especially regular massage, can renew your energy and optimism. You may find yourself motivated to move and exercise, helping you maintain the improvements you have made.
Stress, pain and massage: With modern stresses such as family conflicts, work deadlines or money worries, you may never find the time to relieve mounting tension. When you are unable to relax, unrelieved muscle tension and impaired circulation can contribute directly to the pain cycle.
To make matters worse, chronic pain is a major source of stress. It may interrupt your sleep, leaving you tired and irritable. It drains you emotionally, robbing you of the patience and stamina you need to cope.
To the extent that massage interrupts the pain cycle, even temporarily, it reduces stress. Further, massage acts on the nervous system to relax both body and mind. You may sleep better after a massage, which helps the body heal and renews your reserves. Massage also helps you become aware of unconsciously held tension, so you can take steps to release it on your own. Finally, allowing someone to care for you with a relaxing massage can support you emotionally in a time of stress.
Long-term relief with massage: Massage therapy can help you relax and feel better while effectively addressing many elements of your pain. The effects of massage are cumulative, and for the best results you may wish to receive a series of massages. In addition, follow-up massage in times of stress can help keep old pain from flaring up. In fact, you may find massage so beneficial and pleasurable that you make it a regular part of your life.
Your therapist may recommend more specific self massage techniques and home stretching and/or strengthening routines to further enhance the benefits of your massage session. By keeping a regular treatment schedule and adhering to suggested home maintenance regimes, many people experiencing chronic pain find they are much better able to manage their condition, experiencing a reduction in pain symptoms and an enhanced quality of life. If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic pain, why not call the office today and book an appointment with one of the friendly massage professionals. Chronic pain, like many other conditions is manageable with the right tools.
Chiropractic and Chronic Pain
Ever since the first chiropractic adjustment in 1895, sufferers of chronic and persistent pain have turned to chiropractic for successful management of their conditions.
There are 3 approaches that make chiropractic so effective in dealing with difficult conditions. Firstly, chiropractors are uniquely placed to assess and treat imbalances in neurological function. That is, many chronic lower-back, neck and shoulder pain headache and limb pain conditions have impaired nerve function as a deeply embedded factor in each condition. If the nervous system is not properly assessed and treated, then no amount of exercise, coping or medication can restore proper sensation or motor control to the body. Gentle chiropractic adjustments to the spine are integral to restoring nerve function and re-educating the body to better function.
Secondly, the hands-on approach employed in chiropractic means that aberrant joint function and abnormal muscle conditions including myositis, fibromyalgia and tendinitis, are quickly recognised and treated. Most people who have enjoyed the benefits of chiropractic are aware how well joint problems are skilfully addressed. Our office specialises in combining thorough muscle assessment with traditional chiropractic approaches.
The reputation of chiropractic to give relief for acute spinal pain is well known. Many research studies over the past 20 years also confirm how effective these treatments are for chronic spinal pain.
A newer therapeutic strategy is a separate science of chiropractic rehabilitation. A revolution has occurred in the past 20 years in the field of chronic pain and many chiropractors have been at the forefront in creating new management approaches and collecting research evidence to support the new theories. A radical rethink has occurred about the way we manage the neurological, mechanical and behavioural aspects of chronic pain. Science has driven new developments in exercise science, soft tissue injury and manual therapies, and the behaviour of pain and suffering.
At Health plus Chiropractic, we have been both early adopters and champions of modern developments in the rehabilitation of chronic pain. Anthony has even taught this area to Masters degree chiropractic students at Macquarie University. You would be surprised to see what we have to offer. If you know someone who has been suffering for too long, tell them how we can help.
Podiatry and Chronic Pain
A podiatrist can assess biomechanical function and determine if any weaknesses in gait are contributing to symptoms, and prescribe orthotics to protect joints by either controlling movement, deflecting pressure or accommodating deformities. They can also advise on footwear, exercise prescription, strapping/taping/padding or other treatment modalities that can improve symptoms and reduce foot pain, allowing your feet to cope with the demands of daily living and activity participation.