Why your pain keeps coming back

By Leanne Depa, OTR/L

Has going to the chiropractor or massage therapist only brought you temporary relief of your pain?  You may be wondering why it keeps coming back.  Chronic Pain is very complicated. There are many components to it.  Frequently the things you are doing in between appointments, as well as the things you aren’t doing but should be doing, are leading you back into the chronic pain cycle.  

1. Too Much or Too Little Movement

Sometimes after receiving treatment, you start to feel great and think it is the perfect time to start that household project you have been putting off.  After hours of bending over, lifting, or reaching above, your back, shoulders, and neck begin to ache.  Over time that ache turns into burning, stabbing or shooting pain.  Or maybe you do the opposite…you are afraid of the pain coming back and you limit your movements.  There is a fine line in doing too much or too little after treatments.  Early on when treating chronic pain it is easy to do too much or too little and end up out of balance again.  



How long after receiving treatment does your pain return?  Paying attention to what activities you were doing prior to the pain returning will help you tune into possible issues in your environment.  If you are in pain after waking up, it may be your bed or the position you sleep in.  If it is after a few hours of working, it may be your workstation.  When getting out of the chronic pain cycle, there isn’t a perfect setup suited for everyone.  Imbalances in your body will affect the position that is right for you. If you are trying to sit straight at a desk with your knees and hips at 90 degrees and your arms/wrists in the optimal position according to all the research you have done, you may be doing the opposite of what is best for your body while you are trying to break the pain cycle.


3.The Wrong Home Program

Often home programs consist of stretching and strengthening.  This may work for some, but if it isn’t working for you it is the wrong program.  When your body is out of balance or symmetry, you must first get it back into balance before you can strengthen it.  Frequently our muscles learn to compensate in order to avoid pain.  This doesn’t work long-term.  Muscles that are doing a job they aren’t meant for become overworked and painful.  Strengthening doesn’t help until they are back in balance.  Stretching can irritate already inflamed tissues.  A program designed to put your body back into balance using a gentle approach is much more effective. The timing and frequency of completing your home program may also be the issue.  You need to stay ahead of the pain returning.  When getting your body back into balance, you need to be attuned to when stiffness and pain are increasing and take control of it as soon as possible.  Simple movements that can be done quickly anywhere can reduce or eliminate these. Just as you wouldn’t wait days to take over the counter pain medicine for a headache, you don’t want to wait days for relief.


4. Stress or Negative Emotions

Stress and negative emotions can cause inflammation in our bodies.  It can also cause the pain receptors in our body to be hyperactive.  This causes our brain to sound an alarm in absence of a true threat.  Chronic pain can easily cause people to feel anxious or hopeless.  You wonder if the pain will ever go away, or how you will be able to accomplish all that needs to be done while in pain.  Breathing techniques, journaling, careful planning of your activities and seeing results from a home program that gives quick results will help to reduce these emotions.

  1. Diet

We all hate that 4 letter word, but it does make a difference.  When you are in pain, the last thing you want to do is spend time in the kitchen preparing a meal.  It is easy to stop for take-out or choose a quick poor nutrient meal at home.  Many of these foods have high calories and inflammatory ingredients in them that cause weight gain and inflammation.  In the beginning of getting control of your pain, choosing simple, easy to prepare nutritious foods will help you feel better.  Your choices should include lots of lean protein, vegetables and fruit.  It can be as simple as a salad with careful choices of toppings and dressings.  Remember to also stay hydrated with plenty of water.


As you can see, there are many reasons why your pain keeps coming back.  Finding a practitioner who understands and addresses all of the components that affect chronic pain will help you get better and faster results.

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