Whole Body Wellness Series: Pain Signals and Postural Changes
Pain is the natural response to noxious stimulus (inflammation) occurring to a part of the body that has experienced strain, injury, or disease. Pain is necessary in that pain acts to protect itself and the tissues of the body from further harm. Chronic pain in Friendswood is pain that lasts longer than 6 months and is poorly understood. However, there may be a link between chronic pain, musculoskeletal and connective tissue dysfunction, and the way the nervous system sends signals to the brain.
The Gate Control Theory of Pain
Another part of the nervous system that helps regulate the body’s perception of pain occurs in the peripheral nerves or the nerves that extend out from the spinal cord and sends signals to the rest off the body. The Gate Control Theory, proposed by Ronald Melzack, states that pain may be interrupted by introducing extra-sensory information, such as touch, heat/cold, and pressure to an area, preventing pain signals from entering the brain. If you’ve ever bumped your elbow and rubbed it directly after, you are activating this mechanism.
To put simply, chronic pain is transmitted through small nerve fibers from the body to the spinal cord. Small nerve fibers transmit signals slower than larger nerve fibers. Large nerve fibers are aroused by touch, pressure, etc., because large nerve fibers transmit signals at a faster rate than small nerve fibers, sensation such as touch or pressure reaches the spinal cord first. The spinal cord can only process this information one at a time. So, if large nerve fibers reach the spinal cord first, the gate closes to other sensory information such as chronic pain.
Chiropractic adjustments activate large nerve fibers which interrupts small nerve transmission and closes the gate.
Immediate Changes Following Manual Therapy in Resting State Functional Connectivity As Measured By Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) In Subjects With Induced Low Back Pain: “These results suggest that manual therapies (chiropractic spinal manipulation, spinal mobilization, and therapeutic touch) have an immediate effect on the FC (functional connection) between brain regions involved in processing and modulating the pain experience. This suggests that neurophysiological changes following MT may be an underlying mechanism of pain relief.”
Postural Changes and It’s Affect on the Nervous System
Postural changes occur due to weakness in specific muscles responsible for keeping the body in proper alignment. Forward muscles become over-worked and strong, which causes the weaker muscles in the back to become spastic. Trigger Points often develop in these contractures or “knots”, which creates pain that can burn or radiate into a different area of the body, called referral patterns.
Imbalance of weak vs. strong postural muscles prevents the joints throughout the body from turning against each other properly. When the joints in the spine (vertebrae) are forced out of alignment, the discs become dehydrated and the body adjusts to the new position of the spine by fusing joints together, creating further dysfunction. Increased instability and susceptibility to injury occurs.
Small spaces between each vertebra where peripheral nerves exit the spinal cord decrease in size as the structural integrity of the discs and joints continue to degrade. As these spaces get smaller, they can compress or restrict the exiting nerves and decrease electrical impulses to the rest of the body. This can result in:
- Muscle Weakness
- Tingling and Numbness
- Improper Bowel Function
- Pain and Injury
- Inability to focus, poor concentration, fatigue and other cognitive issues
- Sleep problems and insomnia
Focusing on restoring balance to these muscles and bringing the spine back into proper alignment is crucial for proper electrical transmission to the body and organs. There is strong evidence that suggests Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy in conjunction with exercise can substantially reduce the progression of spinal degradation, improve muscle strength and endurance, for the relief of back pain.
Exercise in the Management of Chronic Back Pain: “Musculoskeletal strengthening of the lumbar and cervical extensors has been shown to significantly reduce pain and provide successful clinical results for patients suffering from chronic back and neck pain. Lumbar strengthening has been successful because it is a safe exercise, it is prescribed based on pretreatment evaluation, and it provides objective measurements.”
Other publications also suggest that exercise in conjunction with chiropractic manipulative therapy can expedite positive outcomes in treatment with faster results than with chiropractic alone.
A randomized clinical trial of exercise and spinal manipulation for patients with chronic neck pain: “…the spinal manipulative therapy and exercise group showed greater gains in all measures of strength, endurance, and range of motion than the spinal manipulation group. The spinal manipulation with exercise group also demonstrated more improvement in flexion endurance and in flexion and rotation strength than the MedX group.”
The lack of exercise or physical activity contributes to most of the postural changes we experience that lead to structural changes in the body. With the increasing prevalence of sedentary occupations and lifestyles, it’s even more important to participate in physical activity.
At Forever Well Chiropractic, our focus is on re-establishing proper alignment in conjunction to addressing weakness in the the musculature that contribute to chronic pain and recurrence of postural changes. Using multiple modalities such as Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, manual therapy, electrical stimulation and therapeutic exercise, we can help restore proper function and reduce frequency of pain. If you have questions about how we can help you, call and schedule a consultation today.
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