Have you ever thought to yourself; “Ugh, I shouldn’t have fallen asleep on the couch again. I must have slept on my neck wrong. It won’t stop throbbing. I better go find Advil”? Pain is a strong motivating factor to seek help and is your body’s way of throwing up a white flag and saying I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE! But here’s the catch; pain is not the first sign of something being wrong with your body. There was some type of issue or injury that caused the pain and it’s likely the issue started long before there was any pain. Often times, it can be the repetitiveness of doing activities with an already existing injury that causes the muscles to get tight, joints to get fixated and eventually will limit your normal range of motion.
A lot of what I see in practice is patients that want pain relief immediately and you can’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want immediate relief when in pain? While it is true than one of the main goals is to end the pain, the end goal is to restore function. It is vital to understand the difference between pain and function.
Pain theory is the idea that the primary goal is to decrease or stop pain.
Functional theory is the idea that we want the body, soft tissue and joint to return to a maximum level of functionality, thus ending the pain.
Pain Theory Treatment: Stop the pain! Immobilize and ice the injured area. The good news is this will ease your pain. The bad news is just because you have no pain does NOT mean the joint is functioning at 100%. The long-term ramifications of lack of motion are vast, but the main ones I see are: muscles atrophy where the muscles get smaller and become weaker, muscle tightening which reduces blood flow and function, soft tissue adhesions (muscle knots) and a slowdown in fluid flow which is needed to bring healing elements into the injury site and remove toxic build-up. Bottom line; besides decreasing pain, everything else that could help to make the injury heal is getting worse!
Functional Theory Treatment: The idea here is let’s do everything we can to allow the injury to heal the best it can and to help our body to go through the natural healing process. We want fast healing and maximal function which is achieved by mobilizing the injured site (not immobilizing the injury). By prioritizing healing rather than avoiding pain, the muscles stay stronger and looser, adhesion formation is much lower and fluid flow is better.
Functional theory is a big part of what my chiropractic practice is all about. A body/joint that moves well will always be healthier than one that does not.