Should I seek Chiropractic Treatment soon or wait to see if the pain settles?
As with so many areas of medicine, seeking treatment early, rather than ‘putting up’ with the pain to see if it will go away, is often so much easier in the long run.
Back pain and joint injuries are no exceptions. Sometimes you can get some pain after exercise, which can settle, but it’s commonly much better to seek Chiropractic treatment as soon as possible, rather than waiting to see if it ‘settles’.
The historic attitude to back pain and joint injury – ‘take painkillers and rest’
Get me out of pain! Symptomatic relief and reduction of swelling have been the main focus of traditional medicine. I’d like to say these are old fashioned ideas, and I’m calling them that to help change our mindset, although in reality they are still very much practiced. The GP guidelines for back pain treatment now, after Chiropractic research in 1990 does emphasis minimal bed rest. However, the main advice so often is still just ‘rest, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and come back in 6 weeks if it doesn’t settle’. Modern research and thinking shows that this counter-productive to helping the injury heal more fully and quickly.
Chiropractic is possibly at its most effective in the early stages of an injury. I explain why early treatment helps in so many ways:
Main benefits of receiving early Chiropractic treatment
- Speeds up recovery of treatment of back and joint injuries
- Earlier resumption of return to work and normal life
- Reduced chance of the injury becoming more chronic or permanent
- Prevents recurrence of injury
The focus of Chiropractic Treatment is to help the body heal the area effectively, encouraging the rebuilding of the tissues to be as close as possible to how they were before the injury. See my other articles about Ligament Injury and Healing and how Muscle and joint injuries heal.
Further Advantages of Early Chiropractic treatment
Chiropractic treatment induces movement specifically to the injury site.
More in-depth reasons to seek treatment soon:
- Improved circulation and vascularity
- To bring oxygen to the muscles, which will oxidise and remove the lactic acid
- To bring oxygen and the grown factors to heal the injury site
- To remove the debris, waste and damaged cells, called autophagy
- Relaxes the protective or ‘splinting’ muscles
- Reduces excess inflammation as the body begins the healing process
- To help reduce the excess formation of scar tissue as it starts to form. The earlier this can be done the better
- Improved nerve flow to the joints reduces pain and relaxes the surrounding muscles
- Help unlock muscles and ligament and joint stiffness and restore normal flexibility and movement
- Movement – to load the joints, to help the healing tissue form more effectively
- Prevent permanent joint or muscle tightness or scar tissue
- To regain full joint flexibility and strength without laxity
Prevention of adaptive postural habits and altered movement patterns
With injuries it’s all too easy to alter our movement patterns. We may tense or favour using the other side, and find ways to adapt, such as avoiding bending the back in a knee injury, or simply just ‘locking the back’ to avoid movements that might cause those spasms. I talk about this in protecting ourselves from injury as the body can lean to onside in acute back injuries. There is a real difficulty when an injury persists and the muscles around the injury remain tighter, or the joint does not loosen and move correctly. A multitude of adaptive movement patterns set in, commonly putting more strain on areas around the injury.
The sooner the muscles can relax and normal movement is restored to the area, the less likely these adaptive muscle patterns are to set in.
I have seen clients who have had car accidents and often attend the clinic 1-3 years after the accident, and I invariably find that their conditions have become much more deep-rooted and take longer to heal. They also tend to develop postural tension and strain as a result of the accident, along with having given up on much of the exercise and activity they enjoyed previously.
This is such a shame and the sooner we can resume normal life, returning to work or sport/exercise, the more chance the injury will settle more fully in the long run.
Exercise gently to move the injured area, within reason
It’s so important also that we introduce movement early to the injured joints and muscles. There is a fine balance, however, between exercising and strain (by overdoing it). When you have had an injury the balance between exercise and strain is much finer, and can be difficult to achieve. This mustn’t stop you gently attempting movement and exercise. It may be that as you introduce gentle movement whilst the injury is present you find that you overdo it and can then feel a little worse. Please don’t let that stop you, or give up. It is important not to stay immobile; try resting and trying again gently.
Tips on Introducing movement to help Injury healing
- Do movements that are comfortable, or that you can tolerate
- If the movement is excruciating then stop
- If you get worse pain later, or the next morning, consider going more gently
- If the movement or exercise you want to do gives pain, then cross-train or do a different exercise that is comfortable.
- Stretch gently, perhaps a few times a day, but don’t get into a bad habit of doing it constantly
- Exercise regularly but again, not too often
- Avoid being static in any one position too long – sitting, standing, lying down, or slouching on the sofa. These positions can cause the joints and muscle to stiffen.