Chronic Pain? Chiropractors Can Help.
Recent studies suggest that approximately one in five Canadians lives with chronic pain. Let that sink in for a second. 1 in 5. That’s nearly 3,000,000 Ontarians. Even more shocking, it’s estimated that two thirds of Canadians living with chronic pain report their pain is moderate (52%) to severe (14%), and 50% have lived with chronic pain for over ten years. That’s a truly unbelievable statistic.
The Canadian Pain Task Force Report, released in June, outlines this growing problem in Canada, and presents some proposals to help address access to treatment for chronic pain.
A key recommendation in the report discusses manual therapy as one of many options for treating chronic pain, including chiropractic care. As a chiropractor, I specialize in treating neuromusculoskeletal pain, a large portion of which can manifest itself as chronic pain. The report further details a wide range of treatment options, including: low-level laser therapy, electrotherapy (i.e TENS), soft tissue (physical) therapy, spinal mobilization, spinal manipulation, activity modification, rehabilitative exercise programs, and chronic pain education. When employed properly, these treatments provide an excellent chronic pain management strategy.
And, the best part - as a chiropractor - I employ each of these therapies on a daily basis when I treat my patients.
Despite what you may think, pain (and our perception of it) serves an important function in our daily lives. Seriously. Our body has developed sophisticated sensory systems to help us identify pain (danger), which enables us to respond immediately (when required).
For example, I'm sure all of you have accidentally touched a hot pan in the oven, and immediately pulled your hand away. You didn't spend much (or any!) time thinking about pulling your hand away. Your body responded immediately to the pain, and took action.
Sometimes, however, our body begins to perceive these pain signals differently, which can lead to chronic (persistent) pain. This is especially the case when it comes to injuries we've suffered (i.e. low back, shoulder, hip, etc) that don't heal properly.
Tame The Beast is a fantastic resource that explains how helpful pain stimuli can potentially lead to chronic pain:
"Let’s look at how pain works. In your body’s tissues, there are specific neurons, which normally only respond to harmful stimuli. – whether mechanical, chemical or thermal. When they are activated, they send a warning signal to your spinal cord, which can in turn send a signal to your brain. This activity in neurons is called ‘nociception’ and it’s happening all the time. But it only sometimes results in pain.
Most of the time, the brain protects you with other things like movement. Once the warning signal reaches the brain, the brain makes sense of it based on the information arriving and the vast amount already stored. If there’s reason to think protection is required, then your brain makes pain.
You can have pain without any physical stimuli. Thoughts and places might activate the warning signals. And the pain feels exactly the same. But it’s not just your brain - your spinal cord also learns how to generate unnecessary warning signals.
So how do you know when your nervous system is learning pain? You may notice your pain spreads or comes on without warning. Your body feels odd and it’s hard to move properly. Your pain changes quickly with your mood and small annoyances can set it off. Old injuries start to hurt again. You’re more sensitive to stimuli. And the longer the pain goes on, the more all of this occurs."
This video does an excellent job explaining our perception of pain, and what can be done to help. With the right strategy, chronic pain can be addressed, and you can definitely #TameTheBeast.