Chronic pain is experienced by many of us as joint pain, musculoskeletal pain of the neck, shoulders, and back, tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, post-surgical pain, general muscle pain and soft tissue pain (fibromyalgia), and nerve pain.
Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is not right in the body. It is part of the inflammatory process, the body’s attempt to heal itself from injury, infection, medical procedures, emotional stress held in the body’s tissues via muscular tension, poor posture, or other poor habits that put undue stress on the musculoskeletal system.
Inflammation results from any of the above, manifesting in heat, swelling (fluid retention, edema), pain, redness, and temporary dysfunction of the affected body part.
Inflammation is also part of the healing process.
In the case of an infection, the body destroys invaders (microbes of all kinds) and flushes them out with the help of white blood cells, the warriors of our immune system. This involves the destruction of the unhealthy tissue, as well as some of the surrounding healthy tissue, followed by the creation of new healthy tissue, including scar tissue at the site of tissue breach.
Even with no infection, the inflammatory process will occur to break down damaged tissue and rebuild new tissue.
Scar tissue (a type of connective tissue) may also form below the skin, where internal structures have been compromised, such as partially torn tendons, ligaments, muscle micro or macro trauma, organ injury, joint capsule injury, prolapsed discs, and so forth.
Scar tissue in the form of adhesions are commonly seen at the site of surgical incisions. They are internal and can cause post-surgical pain that won’t resolve, and often require more surgery to remove them.
Incomplete healing leads to chronic pain.
Often healing occurs only superficially. The bones heal, the tears in the muscle tissue, ligaments, or tendons are filled in by the body, or sewn back together surgically, and the skin forms a scar. Movement is restored minimally, and we’re told that in time we’ll get back to normal. Pain either recedes on its own or becomes chronic pain that is managed with pharmaceutical drugs.
However, the use of pharmaceutical drugs often leads to more tissue injury, in this case of the liver and kidneys, which have to metabolize and flush out these poisonous substances. Moreover, prescription drugs (and over the counter drugs) ultimately lead to more inflammation in the body.
While pain medications offer a temporary reprieve from chronic pain they often result in dependency, along with potentially serious side effects that then are managed with more medications.
Illnesses, injuries, lifestyle choices, and emotional/mental stress leave their mark on the connective tissue.
Chronic muscular tension from emotional stress, poor posture, asymmetric activities at work or at play, or poor body mechanics eventually results in sticky, distorted, and tight fascia, a form of connective tissue that weaves through, envelops, and compartmentalizes all body structures down to the cellular level.
With each injury, illness, or muscular tension, the connective tissue becomes stretched, compressed, or twisted. Eventually, it becomes less pliable, hardened, and distorted.
Distorted connective tissue holds the body structures hostage.
The distorted fascia compresses all the structures within it such as the blood vessels, nerves, lymph vessels, and meridians. The consequences are reduced blood flow, impaired nerve conduction, lymph stagnation, and erratic energy supply. We experience this as excess heat or cold, muscle weakness or muscle twitching, swelling (edema), and fatigue.
Further the shortened and tight ligaments and tendons restrict our mobility. Overtime, the connective tissue becomes a very painful and persistent straight jacket.
We, therefore, must help the body to release the many connective tissue restrictions that we have accumulated over a lifetime.
True resolution of chronic pain requires tissue repair.
To resolve the chronic pain, the body needs to heal the injured tissue. Some of the tools required are
- a healthy blood supply to bring oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells to the area of injury
- restoration of nerve conduction for healthy muscle tone and function
- free blood and lymph flow to flush out the toxins from tissue repair and microbes
- unrestricted meridians to promote balanced energy flow (like electricity flowing through the wires in our homes)
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Gentle body work such as gentle massage, acupuncture, acupressure (no needles), craniosacral therapy, energetic unwinding, and other gentle soft tissue work
- herbal teas to help the body to calm the mind, emotions, and musculoskeletal system
- frequent baths, and other forms of hydrotherapy, with mineral salts (or just epsom salt) in the bath water. Can also add a few drops of soothing essential oils
- bio feedback and imagery to help the body to relax and for you to become more in tune with your body
- fresh, nutrient rich and unprocessed foods — lots of fresh (steamed or raw) vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
- healthy oils to reduce inflammation (from fish, olive oil, hemp seed oil, etc)
- listening to soothing music
All of the above will help to reduce inflammation in the body and in the areas of pain. Since acute or chronic pain is a byproduct of inflammation, less inflammation equals less pain.
As the pain lessens, gentle exercise in the form of walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, gentle dancing, will help to increase mobility and strength.
You will find that with time you will also enjoy greater well being, a clearer mind, greater energy, and more enjoyment of life.
Until the next natural healing perspective blog…