The impetus for many people to seek chiropractic help is acute or chronic pain, most commonly in the lower back or neck and shoulders. Although patients want the chiropractor to help with the underlying problem, lessening their pain is a very important part of allowing them to get on with life in some degree of comfort.
Chiropractic treatment for pain rests on the principle that healing will occur as a natural function of the body once it is in correct alignment. Conversely, misalignment will lead to excess strain and wear on the body, resulting in pain. Misalignment can occur over time as the result of bad posture, repetitive activities (such as performing certain sports or occupations) and degenerative disease. It may also happen suddenly due to trauma from a road accident, a fall or a particular sports injury.
In addition to pain relief, chiropractic treatment aims to restore natural functioning and range of motion to the problem area. In practice, the two go hand-in-hand. Pain occurs in the shoulder, for example, because of a lack of movement from an injury or strain, and once this is treated, the shoulder will be both pain-free and able to move normally.
The body is comprised of many muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, all of which have the potential to cause pain when stressed or damaged. Muscle strain and spasm can occur on its own or as the result of a postural problem. In the latter case, a spasm may not only be causing pain but may also prevent the body from returning to its natural alignment. Soft tissue massage is used by chiropractors to ease muscle spasms and relax the spine back into position. At this point, pain should be considerably lessened, if not relieved completely.
If soft tissue massage alone is insufficient, spinal manipulation will often be used to correct any underlying postural problems. Manipulation helps the spine and joints to resume their natural position and eases the muscle strain associated with being out of balance, thus relieving pain. Trapped nerves, which may also cause considerable pain (as in the case of sciatica), are often released through spinal manipulation.
Some painful injuries may require time to heal, such as shoulder rotator cuff injuries and slipped discs. In these cases, spinal manipulation and soft tissue massage are important in order to give the injury the best possible conditions for repair to take place. Patients will often involuntarily tense their muscles around an area of pain, which can both prolong the healing time and increase their discomfort. In these cases, chiropractic treatment is important to both relieve the pain felt by the patient and to promote natural healing in the affected area.
Although spinal manipulation and soft tissue massage are very helpful in the treatment of both acute and chronic pain, sometimes additional measures may be needed for short-term pain control. In these cases, analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications may be considered to provide pain relief for the patient until sufficient healing has taken place. Whereas the ultimate aim of chiropractic care is to restore function to the body, relieving pain is an important part of treatment and your chiropractor will do their utmost to provide relief.