Pain can go away or vary from day to day, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. For example, if you notice pain in your lower back or your knee every time you go up and down the steps, then this is a sign of a problem. The more you ignore it, the greater the problem can become. Pain does not simply go away or fix itself; your body usually adapts and makes it seem like the issue is resolved. This is why, when you least expect it, you bend over, brush your hair or lift a grocery bag and the pain brings you to your knees.
The truth is that before pain becomes a constant or daily occurrence, there have been lots of warning signs that were overlooked. If you end up with chronic back pain, it has usually been a pattern for many months or years. It could start as a muscle spasm that caused you to lie on the couch incapacitated for a few hours or for one day. It goes away for several months or years, and then you begin to have pain or spasms again. This time they are more often and it might even prevent you from doing things you enjoy. Not only is it more frequent, but now it takes longer to calm down. So the learning point is that if you notice pain is increasing in frequency, intensity or duration, then it is a problem that needs to be addressed. The longer the body continues to adapt to the problem, the longer it will take for it to recover.
Your body is both self-healing and self-regulating. It is designed with the goal to thrive and survive, which includes compensating for pain. For example, if you are out on a 3-mile walk and begin to have pain, most of the time once you return home and rest the pain goes away. The reason for this is that the body wants to prevent the sensation of pain and will do everything to make it go away within limitations of your body structure. Your body may adapt by changing the pattern of your gait, increasing movement in your spine or changing how your heel strikes the ground. These changes are all made without you even realizing it. As a result, this will change the muscle involvement by having other muscles take over for the sore muscles, allowing them to recover. In the process it can change the alignment of the spine or joints to allow for the pain to subside. But was the problem really corrected or did it simply create an abnormal pattern to begin?
Now, going forward, each and every time that you walk the muscles that are compensating are retrained to work in this improper or abnormal pattern all the time. As these muscles continue to work in an abnormal pattern, the pain may begin to intensify and you begin to feel it with more activities. Then, the body naturally wants to compensate again to decrease the new pain and the cycle continues. For some, the muscles may not be able to compensate any longer and the pain becomes constant. To prevent this from happening, I recommend as a general rule: if you feel pain for more than two weeks, it is more than likely not going to go away on its own and you need to seek professional help and evaluation for the problem. This will not only save you time, but money, because typically the longer you wait, the longer the treatment will take.
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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene, 208-966-4425.