Patapsco Integrative Medicine and Rehab
7226 Lee Deforest Drive
Columbia, MD 21046
9020 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
Relief Is NOT Always a Good Start
Going for quick relief, many people create a cycle of chronic problems that could be avoided.
Whether it’s just a wry neck, back pain when you sit, or even just an overall sense of “holding”…aches and pains can be distracting. Sometimes it’s deadlines and worries that distract from proper care, and sometimes it’s fear of disease or treatment. As you get used to compensated postures, you only see it occasionally in the mirror — ugh! Ultimately mood, patience, and self-appreciation suffer, and of course bearing this too long risks developing huge problems in the body and mind.
Simple floor stretches and exercises can take the edge off, and that is a good start. Massage can get blood back in tight muscles, and then they let down again temporarily. Some people even “crack” their own neck or back, and that can give some temporary relief. The problem is relief is typically only temporary, as you are relaxing only the muscles that have been “able to jump in” and help compensate.
Those compensated areas are commonly joints (especially spinal) that more easily can “let go” because they themselves actually don’t have a problem. They are just helping you “compensate” to make movements you need when other joints and muscles are stuck.
When you relax those muscles, your body gets a relative rest from working overtime to guard movements. It feels good as your body can move a little better again, but unfortunately the same muscles quickly grab again because the problem joints are not corrected by simple muscle relaxation.
The other common “quick fix” is medications. Most anti-inflammatories and pain medicines can be effective to mask pain, yet it’s like putting tape over a warning light in your car so you don’t have to see it…asking for further injury and degeneration. Steroids are directly toxic to bone and cartilage, and they calcify (harden) muscle. In fact, the academies of orthopedics, rheumatology, and physiatry all concur that more than three injections per year risk degenerative joint damage and should be avoided.
The other “quick fix” is bracing or joint replacement. Bracing can be used to re-train, but most use it just for relief, and it ends up weakening the joint. While joint replacements are a true blessing in certain situations, they can be done prematurely and unnecessarily. To tighten up loose and degenerated joints, there are options such as prolotherapy or PRP. Prolotherapy uses simple sugars that stimulate the body to thicken up ligaments of loose joints, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) can stimulate complete healing of small tears or degenerated joints. And of course, high quality spine and extremity rehab is critical to re-pattern the joints and tissues.
So while relief can be the first thing we want when we are distracted by pain, it’s wise to pause and consider that pain is a messenger and teacher. Your body and your life are not replaceable, so it’s worth a professional consultation and treatment.