Pain May Be Your Friend

Pain is no fun.  When you are in pain, there is generally one thing that you want—relief!  But there is a purpose for pain.  It is a messenger—a signal from your body that something is amiss and needs your attention.  Often, pain is the first and sometimes the only mechanism the body has to call for help.  When you seek to eliminate the pain without first considering the cause, you may be ignoring an important message that you need to hear in order to retain your health.   

Sometimes the cause is obvious.  If someone is standing on your toe, or if you put your hand in water that is too hot, the pain gives you immediate feedback and a demand to take action to protect yourself from further injury.  However, the message your body is sending when you are in pain is not always easy to understand.  Consider the most common painful conditions in today’s world—headache and back pain.  There are many possible reasons why people suffer from these conditions.  Some causes are very rare but very dangerous, such as tumors or infections in the brain or spine.  Others are extremely common, and not as urgent, but important to identify and correct.  These include improper diet, poor posture, unresolved emotional stress, poor muscle conditioning (due to lack of or inappropriate exercise), and faulty spinal joint movement (subluxation).  While these common causes usually do not pose an imminent danger, if left uncorrected they can eventually lead to more serious and possibly irreversible health problems. 

When you seek help from a doctor, their first responsibility is to help you identify and, if possible, correct the cause of your pain.  The hope is that if the cause is corrected, the pain will disappear, since the body no longer needs to demand your attention.  Medical doctors often focus on looking for the more rare but urgent possible causes of pain.  It is, of course, very important to rule these out.  But when, in the vast majority of cases, none of these causes are found, the most common approach is to treat the pain with medications, leaving the more elusive cause unresolved.  This approach can be problematic because most medications used for pain, spasm or inflammation, especially if used for a prolonged period, have the potential for side effects, sometimes quite serious.  The medications rarely correct the underlying problem, which will tend to perpetuate or even deteriorate over time. 

When you have pain, take time to carefully consider what your body is trying to tell you.  Think about your diet, your posture (at work, at home and while sleeping), your emotional response to stress, your exercise habits, and past traumas (such as auto accidents or falls) that may have left uncorrected problems in your spine.  Consider what response may be most safe and effective in allowing you to feel better soon and ensuring your best chance for long-term good health.  And when you contemplate the resources you have at your disposal to help you understand your body’s messages and respond to them appropriately, keep chiropractic near the top of your list.