Our bodies possess amazing self-healing mechanisms. After an injury, the body begins a multistage process that prepares the injured area to be used again. If everything goes right, you will no longer feel pain from the injury. Unfortunately, healing doesn’t always go as planned. Even when patients care for an injury properly and don’t reinjure themselves, the pain and stiffness can last past the expected time.
Sometimes patients are told that they will just have to live with the pain or take medications for the rest of their lives. The truth is that most people can achieve pain relief and healing with the right treatments. Here’s why you may still be in pain after an injury and how you can finally heal:
The Healing Process
The body’s healing process has three phases: The inflammation phase, the reparative phase, and the remodeling and maturation phase. The first phase begins right after the injury occurs. Your body works to stop bleeding and sends immune cells to clean up the mess. This phase involves symptoms like swelling, heat, bruising, and pain in the affected area. The inflammatory phase usually lasts for a few days. During this period, the patient should use cold therapy and compression as directed by a doctor or therapist, and protect the injured area from strain.
Chemicals released by blood platelets encourage your body to begin the second phase of healing. During the reparative phase, your body begins the process of creating scar tissue to rebuild the injured area. The new cells are not yet in proper alignment, and the area can be moved but shouldn’t be strained. The chance for reinjury is high during this phase. After the reparative phase (which can last several weeks), the remodeling phase begins.
This phase can last anywhere from months to years. The body reorganizes the scar tissue into a strong scar that can support strain on the area. With guidance from a professional, it’s fine to work out during this phase. Straining the area a bit can help build a stronger, more functional scar.
During this process, a few things can go wrong and result in longer-term injury or chronic pain.
When Healing Stalls
Sometimes the body has trouble moving through the full process of healing. This can happen due to a lack of blood flow or dysfunction in the immune system. Low-level chronic inflammation can develop, causing the area to remain sore and not form a strong scar. One way of curing this problem is to reignite the healing process so that it starts over from the beginning.
Sports massage, therapeutic exercise and stretching, and treatments like cold laser therapy can restart the healing process by increasing the flow of blood and lymph to the area. Cold laser therapy uses light to stimulate cells to release chemicals that aid in healing. Most patients experience relief after the first treatment and continue to feel better with each successive treatment.
When pain is caused by an injury that never fully healed, the pain will usually resolve after healing has been achieved. If it doesn’t, then there may be excess scar tissue or nerve dysfunction. Both of these problems can also be treated.
The Pros and Cons of Scar Tissue
Scar tissue is a necessary part of the healing process, but there can be too much of a good thing. Scar tissue can cause prolonged pain and stiffness when it develops in a way that hinders blood flow or traps a nerve. During the healing process, a skilled massage therapist can guide scar tissue formation to prevent dysfunctional growth. Many people have injuries that have healed without this guidance and are now causing pain and hindering performance. In these cases, it is necessary to break up the dysfunctional scar tissue. This doesn’t cause more damage or reinjure the area. Rather, it keeps it from adhering to healthy tissue and causing stiffness and pain.
Chiropractors are trained in several techniques for breaking up scar tissue. The Graston technique, affected manipulation, trigger point therapy, and instrument adjustment can be used to address scar tissue problems in different areas of the body. One of the most effective techniques is acoustic compression therapy. This treatment uses sound waves that penetrate deep into tissues to break up scar tissue and increase blood flow to the area. Acoustic compression is FDA-approved as a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain and stiffness.
Scar tissue can form in areas that haven’t been obviously injured. Micro-trauma from repetitive stress and non-traumatic stress on a muscle (too much tension that decreases blood flow) can also result in scar tissue. Poor posture is a common cause of non-traumatic scar tissue formation. Treating the neck, wrists, and other commonly stressed areas with acoustic compression therapy can help to alleviate chronic pain and encourage healing.
Nervous System Dysfunction
Misfiring nerves are another cause of chronic pain. Sometimes the injury has completely healed, but the nerves keep sending pain signals to the brain. This type of chronic pain is often ineffectively treated with addictive prescriptions. There are safe alternatives that can heal the problem instead of covering it up. Studies have found that stimulating the nerves in the injured area can desensitize them and stop them from sending erroneous signals to the brain. Acoustic compression has been proven as an effective tool for calming overactive nerves.
Whether acoustic compression is used to treat nerve dysfunction or scar tissue, it is a quick and painless procedure. Patients usually need several treatments to meet their treatment goals. Once the treatment has taken effect, the results are long lasting.
What Can I Do to End My Chronic Pain?
The best way to find out the cause of your chronic pain is to be seen by a chiropractor. Burkhart Chiropractic provides chronic pain treatments in the Michigan area and beyond. We believe that every patient can benefit from our innovative approach to healing. Our patients consistently tell us that their quality of life has improved within their first two weeks of treatment. Chronic pain doesn’t have to last forever. Give us a call and get on the road to being pain-free.