I understand there’s a time and place for pain medication. If I (knock on wood) were to break a bone, I’m sure I would welcome the reprieve some pain killer could offer me while my body healed. For those who need a surgery, thank goodness there are chemical ways to be given the opportunity go be unconscious or avoid feeling those procedures.
There are times when we know why we are in pain; we understand what is going on, and we need or want a break from that pain. But a large amount of pain management medication is used when the cause is unknown. If you are in the habit of popping a painkiller every time you get a headache or backache, you are masking the signal your body is sending, trying to get your attention. Other times, we might know our pain stems from an injury, but choose to cover up the pain. The scary part: pain signals serve as a protection against further damage or injury. Athletes can be guilty of this – wanting so badly to get back in the game that they cover up their pain with injections or medication so that they can “push through”.
What is “PAIN”?
There are special nerves in our body that are dedicated just to detecting and transmitting pain signals. Pain is the feeling our brain interprets when that type of nerve becomes irritated. Nerves are the communication lines that travel back and forth from our brains, through our spinal cord, and out into the body. When an area becomes damaged, irritated, functions improperly, or the body recognizes something is wrong, the nerves endings in that area that are capable of transmitting pain messages are stimulated – irritated, really. The signal is transmitted up to the brain, so the brain can figure out how to handle the situation. Did you just touch a burning hot stove? The brain sends a quick message back down to the muscles in the hand – pull away! Did you just smash your toe under a heavy book? The brain sends repair molecules to start the healing process.
What is pain telling us?
Pain is more than just a nuisance. It is designed to be an uncomfortable feeling so that you will learn to avoid that activity and to prevent damage to your body. It’s easy to understand the cause in the acute pain examples I gave above. But what about long-term, or chronic pain? The pain that eventually builds up when your body can no longer adapt to things like poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, repetitive motion micro-traumas, stress build-up during your days, years of sports injury or car accidents, or habitual poor lifestyle factors or eating choices? Pain is your built-in safety mechanism that screams at you: “Hey! Pay attention to me! I can’t handle this stress anymore! I need help! Something is wrong!”
Covering it up with pain medication, or ignoring it all together is like ignoring your body’s cry for help.
What happens when we cover up the pain?
Pain is a threshold. This is part of the story when you hear people talk about varying levels of pain tolerance. When an irritant is present in a tissue, your body tries to heal it. When the irritant persists, remains, or returns again, the body continues to try to either heal or adapt to that irritant. At some point, the irritant reaches a threshold and the body can no longer adapt. That is when your nerve fires a signal to the brain and says, “Hey! I’ve been dealing with this problem, but now I’m calling for backup!” When you cover up this pain with pain medication, what you are really doing is just deadening the nerve that is transmitting the signal. The scary part: The nerve is STILL irritated, and STILL transmitting the signal! You just can’t feel it. Long term cover-up can actually create chronic pain syndromes and nerves that just won’t stop firing, even if the irritant is removed. This means that by not finding and removing the cause of your pain, you could be setting yourself up for chronic pain. Why not just take pain killers the rest of your life? That is a major toxic load on your entire body, your digestive tract, and your detox organs.
How do Chiropractors find the CAUSE of your pain?
We are specially trained to take a full history of your health status, examine your nerve system, and detect stress and irritation on the nerve system and nerves. At Peak Performance, we also have a specialized nerve scan system that objectively measures your nerve stress and balance through the different levels of the spine. This helps us find the cause and source of the pain. It also provides us with an overall status for how much stress is being placed on your body currently, and how well you are adapting (or not adapting) to that stress. We dive into lifestyle factors and habits to determine if you are setting yourself up for risk of re-injury or chronic stress and pain issues. Our passion is helping to prevent pain and dysfunction in practice members who are not in pain, find and eliminate pain and dysfunction in those who are, and then lower your risk of future pain and dysfunction for your future health, so that you can ENJOY your life and live to your full potential.
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