This past Monday I had the privilege of speaking at Duquesne University’s Chronic Pain Symposium. It is a conglomerate of college students, graduate students and professors who either suffer from chronic pain, study chronic pain, or both.
I explained how the type of chiropractic trigger point therapy I practice (Nimmo or Receptor Tonus Technique) affects chronic pain. Muscles easily become part of the pain process while suffering from chronic pain. Even if the muscles aren’t part of the cause of the chronic pain, they will become involved.
Every pained step that you take and every painful time you reach for something high up in a cabinet, your muscles are being affected and being used differently because of the pain. If something is painful to do then it is normal to stay away from that motion. If that motion is something that cannot be avoided, like walking, then it is normal to try to perform this motion differently (shift weight onto another leg, walk on toes). If this motion is performed differently for an extended period of time (sometimes even a few hours is all it takes) then the muscles used to make this compensation will get irritated from being overused and moved in ways they were not designed to.
This compensation eventually causes the muscles to get so tight and irritated that they tear on a microscopic level. This tearing can be mildly painful to extremely painful, depending on the degree of severity. This tearing causes the muscles to form a neurological pathway with the spinal cord, called a reflex arc. The muscles can stay in this pattern of pain and inflammation for months if not years.
Once trigger points are formed, they will become part of the pain process and will intensify the chronic pain cycle. The muscles themselves will be irritated making every painful movement even more so.
Those who suffer from issues like Fibromyalgia, Lupus, any auto-immune disease or process that affects muscles like Multiple Sclerosis will form trigger points in their muscles very easily. Many people suffering from any of those issues will have sensitive and easily irritated muscles. The formation of a trigger point in a few of those muscles can be debilitating.
Nimmo trigger point therapy is an extremely effective way to treat trigger points. It eliminates the neurological input that perpetuates the muscle spasm and decreases inflammation. It will break up fibrotic adhesions and scar tissue in the muscle and restore range of motion. It will balance out the body to be primed to begin exercise.
Exercise and stretching are essential components to controlling chronic pain, and preventing trigger points. The weaker and tighter a muscle is, the more likely it is to get injured and form a trigger point. The looser it is the less likely it will be pulled. The stronger a muscle is, the more endurance it will have to deal with the repetitive stresses of everyday life.
We all suffer from a daily accumulation of tightness. We all have repetitive motions that we perform on a regular basis: sit at a computer or lab bench, talk on the phone, drive, golf, garden, run, bike, you name it. If it is repetitive, then it will cause the muscles to tighten slowly over time. The overused muscles will eventually get so tight that they will tear and form trigger points.
Not to mention that exercise can help to control many “chronic conditions” like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease to name a few.
For those of you who suffer from easily irritated muscles, Pain Free Lifestyle program is perfect for you. It eases the transition into exercise; it is an easy way to being to exercise. Even if you haven’t exercised in years, this program will help you get back into it. It starts out slowly and you can work at your own pace. Even if you don’t progress past the first 4 weeks of the program, you can continue with the level 1 week 4 exercises for the rest of your life and you would still be getting some benefit from doing those beginner exercises. Because doing some exercise is better than doing none at all.
Nutrition is an underappreciated component of chronic pain. Eating badly can increase the chronic, low grade inflammation that most people suffer from, even those who don’t have chronic pain or disease. Increasing chronic, low grade inflammation in the body makes the muscles more irritable and more prone to tear and injure. Those who suffer from chronic pain will make their pain worse by eating poorly.
There are many good foods to eat that are anti-inflammatory and can therefore help to reduce some pain. Many of them are fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are full of anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals that your body and muscles need to heal properly. The more completely a muscle heals the stronger it will be making it less likely to get re-injured. The anti-oxidants will decrease chronic low grade inflammation. Red wine is also considered to have anti-inflammatory effects.
There are many other foods that are healthy to eat, but not anti-inflammatory. Anything that is not inflammatory is good to eat. Unfortunately there are lots of foods that are inflammatory. They include any processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils, trans-fatty acids, white processed wheat like pasta and bread, sugary foods, fried foods, to name a few. These foods create free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are negatively charged particles that when introduced into the body, attach themselves to positively particles. This disrupts the process the positively charged particle was involved in and causes a process to breakdown. Enough processes break down and you eventually break down.
A leading theory on aging right now is free radical based. Meaning that the more free radicals in your body, the faster you will age and your body will breakdown. Those suffering from Fibromyalgia, Lupus, any auto-immune issue, or any disease process that affects muscles like Multiple Sclerosis will feel the effects more so from free radicals. These free radicals will increase chronic, low grade inflammation throughout the body. They will irritate everything in the body, including muscles and exacerbate chronic pain.
Another way to control chronic pain is through stretching and exercise. If exercise is done in the right way, it can strengthen and stabilize irritated and painful areas. Thus giving the injured areas a longer and more active life. If exercise is done in the wrong way it can irritate and injure sensitive muscles, especially if you are in pain to begin with.
Pain Free Lifestyle will take you through step by step into how to get into exercising and when to introduce stretching and when to start exerting yourself. It is an art form getting into exercise. If you are in chronic pain it is hard to get into exercise without exacerbating your symptoms too badly. Pain Free Lifestyle will ease the way into exercise and stretching and how to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.
Stretching is essential when beginning a new exercise routine. You have to stretch to balance out the muscles. If you try to strengthen a tight, irritated and spasmed muscle you will only drive the pain pattern deeper into your nervous system making it harder for the muscles to break out of that pain pattern. Stretching the muscle out will loosen it up and balance it out.
Even breathing is important when learning how to exercise. If you don’t breathe in the right way you can make your workout harder at the least to hyperventilating and passing out at the most. If you haven’t exercised in years you have to start slow make your workout harder at the least to hyperventilating and passing out at the most. If you haven’t exercised in years you have to start slowly and ease your way into exercise. If you rush it you will only hurt yourself and have to stop exercising so you can heal.
There are many components that can affect chronic pain, or any type of pain for that matter. Low impact exercising, stretching, and watching what you eat 80% of the time will decrease chronic, low grade inflammation and any other type of pain. That is the Pain Free Way.
The following are two other articles that I wrote concerning chronic pain.
How to Live with Chronic Pain