Is surgery the answer for your musculoskeletal pain?

Jun 04, 2013
Musculoskeletal Pain

In case you missed my article in The Weekly Sun of the Wood River Valley (pdf) or the Los Alamos Daily Post it is reprinted below.

When we hurt we often assume the worst. We become afraid and tentative with our bodies, telling ourselves that this much pain indicates major damage and will require a significant intervention to heal. This is especially true with new pain that doesn't seem to have a cause. The possibility of surgery quickly comes to mind and we panic, seeking immediate relief and answers from our medical provider.

Sometimes, there is a clear cause for the pain and treatment is direct and effective. Unfortunately, musculoskeletal pain often does not have a quick fix. All too frequently the excruciating pain is not from the bones or joints but from the surrounding muscles. The muscles themselves may have been injured or the muscles are performing a protective role. To prevent the body from overstretching or joints being damaged the muscles go into spasm, tightening and locking down movement.

Undoubtedly you've heard a story of someone bending over to pick up the paper and their back goes out. We are all designed to touch the ground. Problems occur when the body has lost its ability to perform this movement. Bending over successfully is dependent upon many simultaneously body functions, the pelvis rotates forward, hips flex, back muscles lengthen and the spine rounds. If the body struggles with any of these actions and senses danger it will protect itself and stop further movement by creating a muscle spasm. This incredibly painful condition is not an injury but protection for the body that if the movement had continued could have caused injury. 

Modern medicine can effectively treat the symptoms of chronic muscle spasms with corticosteroid injections and prescriptions for pain killers and muscle relaxants. Long-term relief, however, requires addressing the cause of the pain which is generally muscle imbalances and body dysfunction. Treating the cause of the pain is best accomplished through therapy and complementary medicine.

When you hurt, instead of assuming the worst, start with the basics of your structural design. Ask, is my posture straight? When you look in the mirror does your reflection show your load bearing joints – ankles, knees, hips and shoulders aligned vertically and horizontally with each other? Or do you see a rounded back with a forward head position, slumped shoulders, feet and knees that are turned out, uneven hips, and one arm forward of the other? If your posture is compromised, you have muscle imbalances pulling your bones out of position which leads to dysfunctional movement and pain. Just like a building, if the foundation is not solid and the framing sturdy, stress and weakness will develop.

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