So, we want to understand back and neck pain. But what is pain? In its simplest terms, Pain is nothing more than a signal to your brain from a nerve ending somewhere in the body. In a properly functioning nervous system, this signal only gets sent when an outside stimulus is acting on that nerve ending.
What can those stimuli be? In this post, we go over 5 basic ways to irritate a nerve:
1)Compression - Certain nerve receptors, and nerves in general, don't like to be squeezed. If we put enough pressure on these nervous tissues to deform them, they will send the signal to the brain that they are unhappy.
2)Tension - Again, nerves and their receptors don't like to be stretched past a certain point. If they get to the point of losing their slack, they will send that pain signal. If you follow our instagram, you’ll know that stretching isn’t always the best response to pain.
3)Chemicals - This is what we think of as inflammation. Anytime there is tissue damage, cells break or tear. This releases chemicals. Some of these chemicals, when near a nerve ending, can cause a pain signal. Most medical doctors aim to treat this chemical pain with Anti-inflammatory medication, but it is not usually the primary cause of back pain.
4)Temperature - Certain nerve receptors don't like to be too hot or cold. Putting your hand on a hot stove tends to hurt. This can happen to a lesser extent if you have a high fever, but luckily is pretty rare in people with the types of pain that bring them into our office.
5)Malfunction- Our nerves are plastic - meaning they change the more they are used. If a pain pathway is constantly being signaled, it is possible that the pathway becomes so effectient at firing, that, over time, it starts to fire with the original cause of the pain no longer present. This leads to chronic pain syndromes.
When a patient tells us the story of their pain - whether it be from their back, neck, shoulder, knee, or any other joint - it is most commonly an issue of compression and tension. Even when there may not have been an accident or injury that started the pain. People forget gravity is constantly putting force on their weight bearing joints. Inflammation sometimes plays a role, but is rarely the main culprit. Our goal is to utilize movements and load the tissues in a way that will offer relief from these 3 main pain drivers.