Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Problem with Pain

A few years ago in the Journal of Manual Therapy, a research group looked at patients with chronic neck pain.  The intent of the study was to see if there was a possible connection to spinal pain and other health complications.  The outcome of the study determined, “It can be concluded that patients with chronic neck pain present weakness of their respiratory muscles.”  They continued that the respiratory weakness seemed to be related to local and global muscle weakness around the area of injury to the neck.

In this study, they are telling us that people with chronic neck problems are more likely to have other health problems.  In this case they determined that those with neck problems are more likely to have weakness and dysfunction of their respiratory system.  These findings would support numerous prior studies that showed a connection between asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems with spinal conditions of the neck.  The point I’d like to make here is that the pain is not the problem.  Remember that pain is your body’s smoke alarm that serves to tell us that something is not functioning properly.  Thus we need to move our focus from how we are feeling to how we are functioning.  When all we do is manage pain with pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, without addressing the function of the anatomy and physiology, the real root of the problem continue to progress.  The first thing that is taught in Anatomy and Physiology is that Anatomy dictates Physiology – meaning our structure determines our function.  They were so close in this study to getting the big picture that chronic neck pain is a sign of a structural and functional problem.  When the neck becomes misaligned or subluxated, resulting in inflammation and degeneration of the vertebrae and discs and tension or pressure is placed upon the nerves of the cervical spine, function will always be compromised.  In this case, the nerves that exit the holes between the vertebrae of the neck are the very nerves that go to control the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and chest; but they are also the nerves that go to control the function of the lungs themselves.  The chronic neck pain is a sign of a chronic neck problem.  While the study did not look at the function of the nerves, most likely the connection between the respiratory function and the neck pain was directly related to a compromised function of the nerves of the neck as a result of pressure from misalignment or degenerative changes (arthritis) as a result of years of excessive wear-and-tear of the cervical spine.

We are cultured to treat the pain in our society.  When you have pain, begin to ask the question, why?  Disciplines such as chiropractic, massage, physical therapy and various other health services look to restore function in order to reduce the pain.  When function is restored, health can be expressed and there is no longer a need for pain.

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