Many of the millions of people who visit their doctors of chiropractic annually do so because of chronic pain, strain, spasm, irritation, inflammation, or other musculoskeletal conditions.
Since about 60% of our body is muscle and bone, it should come as no surprise that these problems are so common .
And yet although chiropractic is not a treatment for chronic muscle pain, it has been a blessing to millions so afflicted. Why?
What Are Muscles?
Muscles are organs that contract. The 650 or so muscles that are connected to our bones – the ones that bulge when we lift weights and hurt when we overuse them are called skeletal or striated muscles.
These are the muscles that are involved in musculoskeletal (muscle and bone) and neuro-musculoskeletal (nerve, muscle, and bone) conditions. These muscles can perform impressive feats of speed and strength but quickly get fatigued.
Fascia (Connective Tissue)
Wrapped around the outside and lining the inside of muscles and nerves is a strong sheet of connective tissue called muscle fascia; you see it every time you separate meat from a bone or pull a piece of meat apart.
It looks like plastic or cellophane, and it carries the many nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatics that supply the muscles.
If the fascia are damaged, the blood, nerve, and lymph supply to the muscles can be interrupted and chronic muscle problems can result.
Muscles and Nerves
Nerves make muscles move; when a nerve is stimulated the muscle to which it is connected contracts. Nerves also supply muscles with growth nutrients.
If you cut a muscle’s nerves, two things happen: first, the muscle becomes paralyzed; next, it withers away. Cut or severed nerves are not the only cause of muscular paralysis. Neuromuscular disease like multiple sclerosis or polio can cause a loss of nerve conduction to the muscles.
Chronic Muscle Spasm, Fibrositis, Fibromyalgia
Feeling “tight”; always needing to stretch; feeling constant aches and pains in the back of the neck, lower back, and hips; feeling old and stiff; being plagued by morning fatigue, sleeping problems, or tender points (sensitive areas on the body surface) are the symptoms of chronic muscle spasm.
This condition is also called fibrositis or fibromyalgia, and a host of other names: myofascial spasms, nonarticular or muscular rheumatism, myofascitis, myositis, myotendinosis.
Three to six million people (mostly women between 20 and 50) are diagnosed each year with these conditions and it’s believed that they represent only a fraction of the population who suffer from it. John Lowe, D.C., describes typical symptoms:
‘He may describe it as a constant pain between his shoulder blades. He may say his neck, shoulder, hip, or low back has been “killing him.” Or perhaps one of his arms or legs is numb, tingles, or hurts. He may have some basic problem such as emotional stress, arthritis, poor posture, locked spinal joints, or a nutritional inadequacy. Or he may have a whole hodgepodge of other “underlying” problems. But whatever these other problems may be, they’re virtually always accompanied by chronic spasms, along with tight constrictions of his connective tissues.’
Trigger points are tender, sensitive areas that, when pressed, stuck, heated, or cooled can be exquisitely painful. They may exist before as well as after the appearance of muscular aches and pains.
In fact, patients may first discover their trigger points when they are surprised (not too happily, we may add) by someone pressing a seemingly pain-free area.
The pain of trigger points may not be felt in the area pressed but may also be referred to other areas of the body. Trigger points are common in chronic muscle spasm, myalgia, myositis, fibrositis, strain and sprain, and other muscle and joint problems.
We have had success in treating over 95% of patients who present with trigger point pain and tenderness, using a combination of physical therapy modalities (including chiropractic manipulative therapy) and specific rehabilitative exercise program.