17 May 2022

When Will My Pain Go Away?

By Jess Hambly
Woman rubbing her neck.

Here’s a question I’ve heard every week I’ve been in practice for the last 14 years. And it’s a fair question. None of us like being in pain, and pain itself, especially chronic or debilitating pain, can play tricks on our mind and makes us think that this is how our lives will be forever, and that can be a distressing thought to say the least!

The answer to this can be uncomfortable to hear at first, which is – no one knows the ‘when’. I’ve never met anyone with the magic crystal ball, the perfect score card for predicting the exact date and time that you will go from a state of pain to no pain. But if we can understand more about pain, and learn to trust our body’s innate ability to heal, the process of getting through pain becomes much easier.

What’s important to note about pain is that it is a signal from our body that is influenced by many different factors, including how long the pain has been there, how the injury occurred, your age, and your general state of health. Pain can be a signal from our body that something is wrong (which is how most of us have been taught to think about pain).

However, pain can also be a signal from our nervous system that something has the potential for injury. A tissue, muscle or joint may be sending you pain signals because it is trying to heal, and your body is trying to protect it. Think of a bone in your leg that was broken and has been set in a cast. When you take that cast off and go to use the leg, you are strengthening muscles and supportive tissues that haven’t been able to work in a while. When you take it for walks again you are doing a good and important thing for that leg, but your body may send you pain signals at first – that leg is ready to walk, but it’s not ready for a marathon!

Pain can also be a left-over signal. If the pain was there for a long period of time your body may continue to send those signals for a while after the stressor to your body has been removed, as those nerve pathways have been well trained. This is a process called sensitization.

It’s important to remember that pain doesn’t always mean something is WRONG.

If you have started your Chiropractic treatment journey due to pain or an injury, every time you are adjusted the connection between your brain and your body (via your nervous system) is strengthened. An adjustment allows your brain to better communicate with your body, and when your brain can communicate with your body, it can co-ordinate healing faster and regulate your pain response over time. Some people notice a temporary increase in their pain signals following an adjustment, and this is simply because your body has now become much more aware of how extensive an injury is.

This can be really important – once your brain knows that a problem is occurring, it can go about mounting the best healing response to take care of it. Your body’s natural state is to do this – to heal and rebalance. Chiropractic adjustments remove interference to this natural state.

When a Chiropractor removes the interference to your nervous system, your body will start repairing whatever it deems most important at the time. This is part of the genius of the body- it knows what you need and it’s goal is to keep you alive and thriving! If the first thing it deals with is the inflammation and pain you were feeling, then great. Sometimes though there can be other processes more essential to our survival, such as the optimal function of our organs, that our body needs to address first. Organ dysfunction often goes without noticeable symptoms until serious pathologies are present so this may be something you weren’t even aware of. It’s why people notice other changes as they go along with their chiropractic care too, like improvements in sleep, energy and digestion. Your body has 75 billion cells to coordinate, so we need to allow it to work in the order it deems most important.

What we know though, is the longer that your brain and body connection is clear, the faster your body can go about this, and this increases the likelihood of your body managing those pain signals for you. Yes, pain killers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen will suppress those signals much faster, however this is not fixing the issue – it’s simply muting the signals your body is trying to send your brain to initiate healing. The longer we ignore these signals, often the louder those signals can become, and we end up taking stronger and stronger pain killers in an attempt to ignore the problem. Healing is a process, and like any process… it takes time.

Getting a complete picture of your health helps us understand the extent of any issues you may have and allows us to put the most effective treatment plan in place, ultimately speeding up recovery times. That’s why we take x-rays and encourage them if it is clinically indicated that x-rays are necessary and beneficial to your case.