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  • Writer's pictureDr. Doug Pooley

What happens when an injury becomes chronic?

According to the American Pain Society, over 50 million North Americans suffer from Chronic Pain which translates to 1 in 7  of all ages are suffering with ongoing discomfort. By definition, pain becomes “chronic” when any discomfort lasts for more than 12 weeks. The real bad part of this is the fact that the longer the pain persists beyond the 12 week threshold, the less the likelihood of it ever getting better.

According to an article by “Web MD”, the greatest contributors to chronic pain are arthritis, back pain and headache. The article goes on to note that prescription drugs help only approximately 58% of people suffering with chronic pain leaving at least 42% without hope of resolve.

So why does chronic pain develop? As evidenced by the above “Web MD” article, most chronic discomfort arises from unresolved injury to the musculo-skeletal system. (arthritis, back pain and headache). These conditions usually develop as a result of unresolved trauma to a joint or joints. They  may be acute in nature such as an injury or blow to a region, or developmental due to long standing insult associated with postural distortion, repetitive strain/ mico-trauma, or disuse atrophy seen in the obesity and the lack of activity associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

The pain can vary from sharp and stabbing to a dull and constant ache and stiffness. Within a very short period of time, the pathways in the nervous system become sensitized often intensifying the discomfort or lowering the threshold point for occurrence further ingraining the chronic nature of the problem.  

The above explains the structural cause, but the often larger underlying domino effect that chronic musculo-skeletal pain has on the rest of the body only adds and compounds the devastation. Almost 40 years of clinical practice has proven that any unresolved injury to a weight bearing joint such as your ankle, knee, hip, pelvis or spine will inevitably result in compounding insult to all of the above related structures further compromising function and adding to chronic pain. This is not conjecture it is just logical and a fact. There is a unique functional relationship between all of the tissues involved in weight bearing and locomotion. Distortion of compromise of any of the links in this bio-mechanical chain will eventually result in further breakdown of the other components of the chain.

Most of us are wrongly conditioned to look at an injury as an isolated occurrence limited to the affected articulation and nothing could be further from the truth. For example: A hockey player sustains a severe knee strain which eventually appears to resolve without treatment. There is some lingering stiffness after activity which changes his walking mechanics. Over time he starts to notice some discomfort emerging in his hip on the affected side, and his back bothers him when lifting. Over the next few years, not only does the knee become exceedingly more problematic, but now his hip and lower back are part of his chronic pain syndrome. His activity levels have dropped due to the pain, he is regularly taking medications to help him get through the day, weight has increased and general health and fitness deteriorated. The injury happened at age 18 and he is now 25 and in trouble. This is not hypothetical, but an example of a real patient.

It has become one of the crisis of modern times that we equate health with not being in pain and far too simple to reach for a pain relievers rather than deal effectively with the problems at hand. Most are aware that there are serious negative side effects to all medications, but perhaps the most serious and ignored is the fact that pain medications in specific fix nothing and the crime is that they make us believe that we are well and that underlying problems precipitating the discomforts have been resolved. It is my experience that most chronic pain results from the fact that acute pain was mismanaged.

If you are suffering from pain in a weight bearing joint lasting more than 12 weeks and have not paid attention to the root cause I can pretty much guarantee that over time not only will your pain increase, but areas of involvement will spread and some level of impairment result. This is not conjecture but rather inevitable.

Chiropractors are trained bio-mechanical specialists with expertise in identifying the cause of discomfort and providing the treatment necessary to effectively resolve your condition or offer therapeutic options to help maintain mobility and collateral reduce wear and to other related joints and tissues.

All quality of life is directly related to your ability to move with comfort and efficiency, do not become a statistic or risk disability, contact your chiropractor for effective and cost-efficient care.

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