The sense of pain is necessary to our everyday life. It allows us to move through our environment without harming ourselves. It is the body's messenger -- urging us to check in, to see if we need to limit or change certain stressful activities. Unfortunately, many of us, at the time of injury or illness, check in and check back out, unwilling to appropriately treat our injury or change what is causing our pain. At this point, an individual may move beyond the normal pain response to a cycle of chronic pain.
We think it's a mystery. But, upon closer examination, it's something we've been doing repetitively throughout the day. For some it's obvious: the factory or labor job that requires the same motion hundreds of times in an eight-hour day causing a joint to become inflamed and muscles to become short and stiff. Other causes are not so obvious: the grinding of teeth while one sleeps; the computer screen that is too low or the keyboard that is too high. Although these may be more subtle, the end result of chronic pain can be just as real.
The muscles involved have become chronically tightened and tense, restricting the flow of blood to the tissues, resulting in a lack of nutrition and oxygen to the cells. As cells begin to starve, the back up of metabolic wastes irritates the tissues and nerve endings, resulting in more muscle tension and even more pain. And so goes the vicious cycle of chronic pain.
Chronic pain is a frequent complaint of many of our clients. Desperate for relief, they're willing to try anything. ''Massage is one of the most overlooked, yet best ways to break the chronic pain-tension cycle,'' states Dr. Ronald Melzack, a pioneer in modern pain research. An educated, caring touch will have the effect of relaxing the muscles, allowing a flush of the tissues and return of blood flow to the injured areas.
Through the use of massage, the awareness of our bodies is expanded to include those areas with which we were so out of touch that we didn't realize how much pain and dysfunction we were having. Simply by becoming aware of these areas, we learn to let go of them and let go of the pain as well.
Another difficult problem for those suffering chronic pain is lack of sleep. Stage four sleep is vital in the fight against chronic pain. If you have pain, you can't sleep; if can't sleep, you can't heal your muscles.
Other suggestions for the relief of chronic pain:
1. Try some magnesium, which is particularly good for the relief of muscle pain. I prefer the liquid in very low dose taken about one hour before bedtime.
2. Hot baths with epsom salts, ginger or relaxing oils (such as lavender) taken an hour or so before bedtime brings relaxation to tight sore muscles relieving pain and inducing sleep.
3. Magnets really do work! Small but important university studies show magnets to be effective in all kinds of chronic pain. When using a magnet, make sure that it is at least 400-500 gauss (the strength measurement), that you place the magnet directly over the point of pain with north pole towards you. They do not have to be expensive to work!
Never assume chronic pain is something innocent. Check first with your doctor!
Till next time, Rebecca