The Physiology behind the Sore Back
So what is actually happening when my back or neck is sore? First off most people are not involved in traumatic events ie. car accidents, slips and falls or sports injuries, although that can be the cause of low back pain, neck pain or headache. In these cases, it is obvious why we hurt. Most chiropractic patients claim: “Nothing happened!” or “I didn't do anything - I just woke up with it”. The explanation: repetitive micro-trauma, or in other words, activities of daily living. That is, all the things we do in our daily lives add up and eventually become "the straw that broke the camel's back”.
1. Stand with proper posture and have a friend stand behind you with their hands on your shoulder (trapezius) muscles.
2. While your friend is feeling how tight your muscles are, imagine doing things that you normally do throughout your day, (work, lifting your child, doing dishes, driving your car, working on your computer etc.).
3. No matter what your activities, your trapezius muscles immediately tighten up.
If you do things all day long - and you do - those muscles slowly and progressively get tighter. Now let's look at the physiology: If you have a spinal vertebra/joint out of alignment, it can pinch the nerves coming off of the spinal cord. Those nerves become irritated due the pressure of the misalignment. Those same nerves go to muscles which then tighten up and so, blood flow to the muscles gets cut off or at least decreases. As a result, those muscles become shorter, less flexible and lose their ability to move. In 4 days, adhesions begin to form in and around joints and surrounding soft tissue, (muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia). These joints are now even more restricted and can’t move properly. With all this restriction and nerve irritation, chemicals are released and build up, these can be either normal metabolic waste products and/or inflammatory chemicals but the chemicals cause pain receptors to fire and that is what causes the pain - a vicious cycle.
The solution: Chiropractic adjustments, of course! With a quick, sudden, but gentle thrust, the the joint movement is restored, pressure on the nerve is released and the muscles relax (stimulation of the Golgi Tendon Organs inhibit muscle spindles), adhesions either breakup and/or elongate and chemicals can now be absorbed or allowed to dissipate, and the pain is alleviated. There may be residual pain but many times that disperses within a couple hours. Massage can help this process but if it is caused by joint misalignment, the problem will not resolve and the vicious cycle will continue.
Wellness care: This is why so many Chiropractic patients seek routine care - they want to interrupt this cycle of repetitive micro trauma instead of waiting until they hurt so bad, they can’t function. We will cover additional benefits in future blogs.
So if you have recurring aches and pains or just want to prevent it from happening in the first place, talk to your doctor of chiropractic or call me about repetitive micro-trauma and the benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments.