Pain, at a physiological level, is stimulation of nerve endings (nociceptive) either by chemical or mechanical means. This commonly occurs through injury and its purpose is to inform us of tissue damage.
The causes of musculoskeletal pain are varied. Muscle tissue can be damaged with the wear and tear from daily activities. Trauma to an area (jerking movements, accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle) can also cause injury leading to pain. Other causes of pain include postural strains, repetitive movements, overuse, and prolonged immobilisation. Changes in posture or poor body mechanics may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening, therefore causing other muscles to be misused and become painful.
Types of Pain
Acute Pain is defined as pain lasting less than 3 months, or pain that is directly related to tissue damage.
Chronic Pain there are at least two different types of chronic pain problems – chronic pain due to an identifiable pain generator (e.g. an injury), and chronic pain with no identifiable pain generator (e.g. the injury has healed).
Referred Pain is pain perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus/ origin.
How is musculoskeletal pain treated?
Musculoskeletal pain is best treated by addressing the cause. This will vary depending on whether you are experiencing bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, or joint pain, or some other kind of musculoskeletal pain.
Where Osteopathy may help
- Education about the pain processes
- Using a splint to immobilise the affected joint and allow healing
- Using heat or cold
- Biofeedback techniques
- Therapeutic massage
- Advice and education about how and which exercises can help
- Strengthening and conditioning exercises
- Stretching exercises
- Graded exercise programs – slowly increase exercise tolerance
- Mobilisation, trigger point therapy
- Pain coping strategies so that you have effective tools to manage episodes of pain
- Re-education of normal posture and movement patterns
- Workplace assessment and addressing ergonomic factors
- Address movement behaviours that you may have developed that are not helpful
- Liaison with GPs, psychologists and specialists where required
Understanding pain, what type of pain it is and where it is coming from, is crucial to a positive treatment outcome. Osteopaths are specifically trained in diagnosing injury and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.
If you have pain that is not going away and or getting worse-see your Osteopath.