COMMON ROOT CAUSES OF MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN
Did you know that nearly 84% of adults in the U.S. will experience back pain at some point? Musculoskeletal pain affecting the back, neck, or other joints is one of the most common health complaints. Sometimes, the pain responds well to treatment and heals completely, but for others, the pain persists and becomes chronic.
Researchers are still trying to pinpoint why some people experience chronic pain after an injury, while others don’t. We do know that many things, including fitness, genetics, and habits like smoking, play a role. Fortunately, there are safe and effective treatments that can reduce chronic symptoms and, in some cases, even completely relieve them. The key to effective chronic pain management is understanding the root causes of symptoms.
Here are two common causes of chronic musculoskeletal pain and how to treat them.
1. Stalled Healing
Your body is made to heal, but sometimes the complex system that mediates healing goes awry. There are four stages to the healing process. The first two stages focus on fighting infection, stopping bleeding, and cleaning up the area. Inflammation and pain are at their worst during these stages. Next, the body creates new tissues and strengthens them to become functional. A significant transition occurs when the inflammatory phase subsides, and the proliferation phase (new tissue formation) begins. If inflammation doesn’t decrease, pain may last longer than it should, and new tissues may struggle to form or strengthen. This is referred to as a stalled healing process. It can happen anywhere in the body, but is most common in areas that don’t receive robust blood flow.
Circulation is vital to the healing process, but joints, spinal discs, and tough tissues like ligaments and tendons don’t receive as much blood flow as muscle or skin. Signs that you may be dealing with a stalled healing process include continued pain, tenderness, redness, or swelling for several weeks after an acute injury. Take, for instance, a sprained ankle. A patient with a stalled healing process may still experience significant pain four weeks after the injury occurred. They may also notice that the ankle seems weak and prone to re-injury.
Another type of stalled healing is seen with repetitive use injuries. These injuries occur when an area of the body is strained on a regular basis. Tennis elbow, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel are examples of repetitive use injuries. In these injuries, inflammation remains chronic because the damage happens faster than your body can heal. Symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, and reduced function.
Treatments for A Stalled Healing Process
The key to jumpstarting a stalled healing process is encouraging circulation to the area. This reduces inflammation and allows the next stages of healing to occur. Several treatment methods exist to achieve this.
Stalled healing often happens with disc and facet joint injuries. Spinal decompression therapy is proven to aid healing in patients dealing with back and neck pain caused by these issues. This innovative form of spinal adjustment uses a computerized table to gently stretch the spine. By creating negative pressures between the vertebrae, it relieves pressure on nerves and invites circulation, oxygen, and nutrients to the area.
PRP Injections are used to treat stalled healing in many types of tissues. PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma. It uses the plasma and platelets from the patient’s blood to jumpstart healing. Platelets are special cells that stimulate tissue repair. By injecting them directly into the injured area, we can mimic the effect of robust circulation. PRP is proven to reduce inflammation and pain and encourage healing. It can treat acute injuries and chronic pain. PRP may be helpful for repetitive use injuries when used alongside lifestyle adjustments.
2. Postural and Fitness Problems
The body works as a mechanical system. When one part is out of balance, other areas try to compensate. Foot and gait problems can cause knee, hip, and low back pain. Bad posture can throw off spinal curvature, and all these issues can strain soft tissues.
Posture is one of the most common causes of persistent musculoskeletal pain. Looking down with your neck bent for a prolonged time (such as when using a phone or laptop) can exert up to 50 pounds of pressure on your spine and spinal cord. Doing this frequently may lead to bulging discs in the neck, pinched nerves, and straightening of the spinal curvature in the neck. These problems may cause severe, long-term symptoms, including pain in the neck and shoulders, reduced range of movement, frequent headaches, and nerve-related symptoms like tingling, numbness, or even problems with sight, hearing, and balance.
Similar issues can occur in the mid-back if you hunch over your laptop, and in the lower back, if you slouch or don’t use a supportive chair during your workday. Your neck, mid-back, and lower back all have a normal curvature that protects your body from shock. When you hunch over, you may increase the curve of your upper back to an unhealthy degree, causing pain and breathing problems. When one curve changes, the other curves will try to compensate. This may cause pain throughout the back and neck.
Lack of physical activity or weak muscles makes it harder to hold a healthy posture. Weak muscles aren’t as capable of holding your spine in place. This makes it more prone to subluxations and disc injuries. Weak core muscles may cause your back to hurt even if you are uninjured by allowing the spine to put pressure on nerves and discs.
Treatments For Muscle Weakness and Poor Posture
Rehabilitation exercises and spinal adjustment are two treatments that may be used together to help you rehab your posture and build strength.
Rehabilitation specialists use exercises and stretches to increase flexibility, build muscle strength, and balance the body. Spinal adjustment can help correct subluxations caused by bad posture or a weak core. Chiropractors and rehab specialists can also advise you on lifestyle changes, like how to set up an ergonomic office space. They tailor their treatments to your needs, so if you’ve been injured in the past, your provider can help you build strength without irritating your injury.
Patients with chronic pain are often experiencing multiple root causes of pain. Seeking treatment at an integrated clinic that employs pain specialists from different disciplines improves outcomes for these patients. At an integrated pain center, you can receive chiropractic care, rehabilitation and treatments for stalled healing. By addressing all these issues as a team, providers can address your current pain and help prevent future injury.
Chronic Pain Management in Houston
At Vanguard Spine & Sport, our integrated teams of pain specialists provide comprehensive care for musculoskeletal pain. If you are dealing with chronic pain or an acute injury that is struggling to heal, we can help. Schedule a consultation today to learn how integrated pain management can improve your quality of life.