“Is it just a muscle?” is a question that I hear frequently from patients with back and neck pain. The implication is that the patient doesn’t think that it’s a chiropractic problem, after all, chiropractic is about bones, right?
And, if it’s just a muscle, we can stretch it, foam roll it, smash it with a lacrosse ball, floss it, or rub smelly creams on it which should fix the problem...
To borrow a phrase from Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend”.
It’s helpful to think of muscles as pawns in the chess game of the human body. They do what they’re told via motor nerves, and are often sacrificed to protect the King and Queen (the brain and spinal cord).
The nervous system is extremely interested in its own preservation and will sacrifice comfort (muscle pain) for safety (spasm) any time it feels threatened.
Many of us have experienced this when we have muscles that spasm to form a functional “splint” in an area of the body that is injured. This is especially common in areas which are more threatening to the nervous system, such as the back and neck. Sometimes the threat is real, and the spasm is appropriate, such as after a major trauma. Muscle spasm can be a highly effective method of temporarily stabilizing a severe injury.
However, sometimes the nervous system overreacts to a relatively minor dysfunction in the body and generates the same painful spasm as a dangerous or unstable fracture. In these cases, it is the protective response or muscle spasm, that generates the majority of the pain.
Even when a muscle spasm is the source of the pain, such as a tight, knotted, and spasmed muscle, it’s still the brain and spinal cord that are causing that guarding spasm.
Therefore, our treatments must be centered around the nervous system, to alleviate the root cause of the painful muscles. Otherwise, a treatment that relaxes the muscle temporarily, will quickly be reversed by the nervous system as it seeks safety through increased muscle spasm.
Chiropractic manipulation (treatment) and therapeutic exercise (rehabilitation) are consistently producing favorable results in the scientific literature, especially when used in combination.
At Spine+Fit Clinic in Cheyenne, we have a comprehensive system where treatment and rehabilitation are effectively combined in order to help our patients Get Better, Stay Better, Live Better as quickly as possible.
Spine+Fit Clinic is here to support YOU on YOUR journey to live a strong, healthy, and happy life. Please let us know how we can help YOU!