Injuries, posture and body mechanics have a big impact on chronic pain, especially if they are not treated or corrected early. An injury, especially in the spine, can cause an alignment problem. In many cases, the misalignment can be relatively subtle, but it changes the way the patient stands, sits, and moves. Soft tissue injuries can also result in chronic pain and some diseases, like diabetes, can cause nerve damage.
When people hurt, they develop habits to reduce the pain. For example, joint pain may cause the patient to avoid full extension or flexion (straightening and bending) the affected joint. Eventually, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments become tight and begin to shorten, which decreases flexibility in the joint and makes the problem worse. Muscles may also become unbalanced (muscles work in pairs), which contributes to gait or functional problems. Nerves may also become hyper-reactive, so even a light touch is painful.
Since most people with chronic pain reduce their activity levels, strength, stamina, and heart fitness all suffer. Pain can also cause sleep disturbances and generalized fatigue. Mood changes – which can be made worse by sleep deprivation – can result in anxiety, irritability, and depression. Appetite changes (both overeating and undereating) occur in many patients. Lower activity levels and the use of some medications may result in constipation.
In almost all cases, chronic pain has a musculoskeletal component. Even if a patient has an abdominal problem, changes in posture to guard the abdominal area may result in alignment problems or muscle tension. Chronic pain also nearly always has something to do with spinal or joint alignment, since the musculoskeletal and nervous systems are interconnected. Chiropractic helps by addressing the alignment problem and improving nervous system function, which allows normal body movement. Other chiropractic therapies, like nutritional counseling, can also improve overall health and promote wellness.
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