When Pain-Killers Just Take “the Edge” Off
Imagine if someone had hold of your finger and was cranking it backward. You could take all the pain-killers, all the anti-inflammatories in the world and it would not stop the pain.
The cause of the pain is not chemical, it’s caused by the mechanical stress on the joints, ligaments and muscles.
The pain (headaches, arm/shoulder pain, back pain) will only stop when the mechanical, the physical cause of the pain is eliminated. Medications may “take the edge off” temporarily, but they don’t fix the problem because the pain isn’t chemical, it’s mechanical.
Muscles are the line of first defense in any injury. They take the hit first to protect, and hopefully spare the deeper, more vital tissues.
As an example:
Think about a car accident… the head weighs about 12 to 14 pounds. It’s supported by a relatively delicate cervical spine. During the impact of a collision, the muscles suddenly, forcefully contract to decelerate the head. If the muscles get torn but protect the more delicate and vital structures, i.e. the ligaments, the spine, the spinal nerves and the spinal cord, they’ve done their job. Clearly muscle injury is less threatening to our survival than is spinal cord injury. The muscles have done their job, but they’ve suffered the damage.
Of course, if the trauma is greater than the muscles can successfully protect against, then even the deeper, underlying ligaments, etc. will also be damaged, and the degree of injury will be greater still. With any injury, the muscles are always involved.
Now, it’s important to remember, it doesn’t matter whether the injury is the result of one single traumatic event like a car accident, or whether it’s the result of small, seemingly insignificant injuries accumulated over time, (ex: the damage to the neck, upper back and shoulder muscles that affects hairdressers & computer operators, and the damage to the arm and hand muscles in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), the muscles are still affected the same.
This is the process in a nut shell:
Injury > inflammation > scar tissue adhesions (& pain) > muscle shortening (& pain) > (now comes the) joint restriction (& pain) > muscular weakness, stiffness (& pain) > decreased function > more damage due to more weakness and less function > more inflammation, adhesions, weakness and PAIN. It becomes a vicious cycle. Medication does not address the physical mal-adaptation, and leaves the underlying damage untreated. With time, it will ONLY get worse.
Now ~ this process of maladaptation and dysfunction does involve the joints by altering the mechanics (unequal muscle pull on the bones that make up the joint), creating loss of normal motion, fixation and predisposing the joints to an accelerated rate of wear and tear (degenerative arthritis), BUT ~ it is NEVER JUST A JOINT PROBLEM. IT’S A MUSCLE PROBLEM ~ OR a MUSCLE AND JOINT COMPLEX PROBLEM.
Injured muscles contract (that’s all muscles can do to protect themselves from being torn further). They contract & pull on their attachments (think… bungee cords), and they hurt. When muscles have become weak due to injury or disuse, they are more easily overtaxed, (it’s a lot easier to hurt weak muscles than it is strong muscles) and they (relentlessly) contract in response.
It sounds simple, but no less true, “Nothing in nature stays the same.” It’s either getting stronger and more vital, or it’s (slowly or quickly) getting weaker and less healthy.
If that abnormal muscle contraction is not relieved, the body begins to physically shorten the muscle(s) with scar tissue. Adhesions begin to glue the muscle layers together. It begins to feel like “shrink wrap” around the involved area. This process of deconditioning and maladaptation nust be revversed to achieve any long lasting pain reloief and healthy function. Otherwise it leaves the muscles even weaker and more easily injured each time they are overtaxed.
Typically, (not always), pain from muscle contraction (spasm) is present first thing in the morning, but subsides to some degree as you begin to move around. Then it becomes increasingly more painful as the day progresses. Why? The capacity of the muscles to do work is less than even the daily routine demands of them. Then what? They contract even more in response to being overtaxed. Over time, the body responds by infiltrating the contracted muscles with cob-webby scar tissue, and sticky scar-tissue adhesions start to glue the muscle layers together. Adhesions HURT. The muscles become weaker still, and more easily overtaxed as time goes by.
No matter whether the injury is to the muscles alone (strain), or to the ligaments (sprains), or to the bones (fractures)… no matter what tissue is injured, the muscles, being the most FUNCTIONAL tissue responsible for protecting the deeper, more sensitive structures… no matter how deep the injury goes, the muscles are always involved. Always. (Read ~ Always)
The Downward Spiral
Pain hurts. To avoid more pain we use the parts that hurt even less. Even more weakness is the result of less demand. The muscles lose endurance (we can walk for 15 minutes, but not for 3 hours). The muscles are more easily over-taxed than they were before the injury. When muscles are overtaxed, they contract, they get (involuntarily) tight. They get tighter and tighter. They hurt. The body responds by shortening the muscles with more of the same scar tissue. Adhesions form between the muscle layers because they’re not being used throughout their full length. Adhesions hurt. The limb is used less to avoid pain. The decreased use results in more weakness, & less endurance. More pain. Less use. The muscles tighten even more. The contraction hurts. We do less to avoid the pain. The less we do, the weaker the area becomes. The weaker the muscles become, the more they contract. The more they contract, the more they hurt… the less we do… the weaker they become… the more they contract, the more they hurt. And on and on.
Our Bodies (and Minds) Take Shape According To The Things We Do Routinely!
The only fix (read ONLY fix) is to first eliminate the contraction (Trigger Points), the spasm within the involved muscle groups, and then to systematically bring the strength and endurance back up so that the capacity of the muscles is greater than any routine demand. This will restore the functional capacity to the involved area so that it is no longer the weak link that always fails first. This is what I focus on, giving you the tools to keep the problem from coming back on you.
It’s a lot more than relief from pain. It’s about being able to enjoy the things you love to do; things you may have given up, just trying to keep the pain at bay.
Pain is a miserable companion. Enjoy What You Love With More Vitality and Renewed Mobility!