Chronic Pain is when pain has been present for more than three months. In cases of chronic pain, often you begin to move differently to reduce the pain. Over time, these different ways of moving become habitual. The muscles you are supposed to use become weak and no longer work as effectively.
With chronic pain, an active recovery programme consists of specifically tailored educational exercises that focus on strengthening weak areas of the body that have been affected by injury. Combined with chiropractic treatment, it addresses the initial problem, enabling you to recover from the injury by ensuring your joints are working as well as possible. Studies have shown this can help keep recurring problems at bay.
In the past, complete bed rest was prescribed for back pain. Improved knowledge has now shown that bed rest for more than two days increases the recurrence of back pain within a year.
First episode of back pain
The first episode of back pain can last from days to weeks, with the acute painful symptoms easing within the first ten days. Studies have shown that individuals who have experienced previous spinal problems are more likely to suffer with future chronic problems or increasingly frequent relapses. If the reason for the pain is not fully addressed, the chances of experiencing further problems are increased.
Traditionally, Chiropractors have always used exercise in their approach to any kind of joint problem. Usually given during the mid-late stages of recovery, exercise is rarely in the initial stages of treatment as it can often aggravate rather than help until the joint problem has been resolved.
One size does not fit all
Not everybody needs the same type of exercises as conditions and problems vary. The aims of the programme will differ according to the problem that has originally occurred.
Whiplash injuries for example will require exercises focused on re-educating the supporting muscles of the neck. Studies have shown that whiplash injuries can affect the sensors in the joints that allow the brain to know how the joints are positioned when your eyes are closed.
In contrast, the programme for a ‘simple back strain’ focuses on strengthening the supporting muscles of the back (the core muscles) that were weak, originally allowing the injury to occur.
For recurrent ankle sprains, the programme would aim to re-educate the joint sensors in the ankle, and strengthen up the supporting muscles around the ankle and lower leg. This in turn improves balance and co-ordination, making future ankle sprains less likely due to increased support.
Whatever your injury, your Chiropractor will tailor your basic programme by selecting specific exercises to either increase your flexibility, or increase your muscle tone.
The commitment to doing the exercises on a regular and continuing basis is key to chronic pain recovery and rehabilitation. Exercise programmes have been proven to prevent back pain and other joint pain but can only have a lasting effect when continued for a minimum of three months, or ideally adopted as a lifestyle.