Millions of Americans deal with some form of musculoskeletal pain. Many things can cause chronic pain. For some, it’s an acute injury that never fully healed. For others, it’s a repetitive use injury from work or sports. Injuries still in the healing phase can also cause significant pain weeks after the injury first occurred. We can treat all these scenarios using therapies that stimulate your body’s natural healing processes instead of addictive drugs or surgery. Here’s your guide to managing (and even curing) pain the natural way.
Two Types of Chronic Pain
In terms of treatment goals, there are two general categories for chronic pain. First, is an injury where the healing process has stalled or been complicated, but complete healing is possible. Second, is an injury where underlying structures like cartilage have been too damaged to be restored.
The first category would be something like a broken or sprained ankle where x rays show that the bone and joint have healed or were never damaged, but discomfort still lingers. This discomfort may be caused by excess internal scar tissue that formed during the healing or by low-level inflammation caused by a stalled healing process. Patients with this type of pain may be able to experience complete healing with the right sorts of treatments.
An example of the second type of pain is cartilage degradation caused by osteoarthritis or trauma. Flattened discs in the back are another example. In these cases, there is not a way (yet) to restore the cartilage or discs to their original state, but pain and stiffness can be reduced and managed with personalized treatment.
Knowing what kind of pain you are dealing with will help you understand what your expectations of treatment should be. It’s important to talk to your provider about the underlying causes of your pain and treatment goals.
Acoustic Compression for Excess Scar Tissue
Scar tissue is a natural part of healing, but sometimes the body forms too much scar tissue, or it adheres to other tissues in problematic ways. Acute injuries like sprains, strains, and whiplash often cause long-term stiffness and pain because of excess scar tissue. Since the scar tissue is internal, you can’t see it and know that it’s causing the problem. Through examination, your provider can tell whether scar tissue is contributing to your pain. Even repetitive use injuries may form scar tissue adhesions as they go through periods of repeated strain and attempts at healing. Microscopic tears in tendons and muscles form scar tissue, and over time this builds up and causes stiffness and pain.
When adhesions happen around a joint, the patient may feel a pulling sensation or something in the area that just doesn’t feel right. Adhesions near joints can cause abnormal mechanics (the way the joint moves), injuring surrounding tissues. Sometimes scar tissue adhesions trap nerves, causing shooting pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling.
It is possible to “break up” adhesions without surgery. In fact, surgery often worsens the problem by creating more trauma and more scar tissue down the road. One of the best treatments for excess scar tissue is acoustic compression therapy. This treatment looks similar to an ultrasound, but it uses sound waves that are one thousand times more powerful. Acoustic compression sends these waves deep into the tissues to break up adhesions and stimulate blood flow.
Scar tissue adhesions reduce blood flow which stalls healing. If left untreated, this can become a vicious cycle resulting in permanent tissue damage. Breaking up these adhesions and helping blood flow get to the area will stimulate healthy healing.
Laser Therapy for Stalled Healing
The healing process involves several steps. The first step is inflammation. Inflammation is necessary, but too much inflammation can reduce blood flow and slow healing. Sometimes areas that naturally receive less blood flow, like joints and spinal discs, cannot progress through all the steps of the healing process. Instead, they linger in the inflammation phase causing pain and stiffness.
Blood flow is vital to healing, as it brings the specialized cells that clean up the injury and begin building new tissues. (You can read more about the healing process in this article). You may notice that one thing all the treatments in this article have in common is stimulating blood flow.
If your provider determines that chronic inflammation and stalled healing are the primary causes of your pain, then cold laser therapy can help. Cold laser therapy uses light energy from a class IV laser to stimulate healing at the cellular level. It works in a similar way as photosynthesis in plants. The light is absorbed by the cells and activates them to increase blood flow and produce collagen. Most patients notice results after every treatment, and some may experience complete relief after a regimen of treatments. Treatment sessions are short– less than twenty minutes– and painless.
Spinal Decompression Therapy for Disc Pain
Spinal Decompression therapy is a type of computerized traction. The patient lies on a specialized table with a harness comfortably fitted around their core and legs. The table pulls apart in the middle to gently stretch the spine. The computer can achieve precise movements that aren’t possible using manual traction techniques. Spinal decompression therapy is the only type of traction clinically proven to create negative pressure between vertebrae. The negative pressure relieves painful nerves and –you guessed it– increases blood flow to bring healing factors and nutrients to the area. This process can reduce inflammation and pain even in patients with compressed discs. Patients with torn or bulging discs can experience faster healing and complete back pain relief.
One study that tested spinal decompression on patients living with chronic low back pain for at least ten years found that 60 % of them experienced significant long-term relief after completing a decompression therapy treatment plan.
Your chiropractor may use decompression therapy along with other treatments to personalize your therapy for your condition and goals.
Natural Pain Management in Michigan
At Burkhart Chiropractic, we specialize in providing safe, effective treatments for injuries and chronic pain. Many of our patients have experienced life-changing results. Schedule a consultation today to find out how our innovative treatments can get you out of pain and back to the activities you enjoy.