professional massage therapist treating a female patient s injured neck

But Why Does It Have to Hurt?

Ok — today’s article isn’t the follow-up post about anxiety that I promised in my last entry. It is coming though, I promise! It occurred to me today that I should write up a simple explanation of why what we do hurts. No matter how you slice it, many treatments we perform in our holistic healing center hurt. In our line of work, we are often asked, “Why does treatment have to hurt?” or, “Is there another way?” Sometimes we even hear, “I came to get out of pain, and you are putting me in more pain!”

In this post, I will attempt to answer these questions. As much as I enjoy talking about these topics, most people don’t like to sit around and theorize (but I know most people are weird!). Ok, all joking aside, people want to get out of pain and back to their routines. Here goes nothing!

First, injuries themselves are complex. I will not get into the neurology of what is going on in the brain, as I want this post to be as simple as possible. I know I have a close friend laughing right now, saying, “How can you ever be that simple?”

Well, injuries are complex and multifaceted. They fall into three main categories:

  • Single events
  • Accumulation of small injuries over time leading to a more serious injury
  • Repetitive poor movement

So, what are “small” injuries? These are injuries that happen unbeknownst to us. We are complex beings leading complex lifestyles with uncountable variables. We can often be injured without any accompanying pain, or if there is any, it is slight and fleeting. The body compensates and we move right along. These usually heal over time, but sometimes they don’t. Some of the reasons why include poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, or poor movement patterns. These factors can accumulate over time and lead to a bigger injury; think of this situation as the straw eventually breaking the camel’s back.

Life happens and these injuries occur. All of these types of injuries are common, and that’s why we like to see our clients periodically. Regular checkups can help to prevent injuries like these from occurring, but sometimes, life just happens and you get injured.

Let’s turn our attention to injuries. Why do they hurt so much, and why does it have to hurt when you come in for treatment? The answer to the first question is simple — you injured your body’s tissue. Tissue damage leads to inflammation, and both create pain. Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The small injuries I spoke of earlier are trigger points, or fascial adhesions. They are inflamed and angry, and that’s why they hurt.

Associated with these points are inhibited muscles, or what I call “weak muscles.” Basically, the brain is trying to protect the injured area by isolating it and compensating for it. This is what I’m looking for when I perform muscular tests. When I find a fascial adhesion, I will massage them out. While this process can be painful, massaging these points reconfigures them and helps the body begin the healing process. The muscles go back to normal and the body readjusts. So, whether the injury happened all at once, or you don’t know what caused it, the healing process essentially follows the same principles.

As the doctor, I am trying to sort it all out and help your body heal. The pain is an unfortunate, but necessary, part of treatment. This how the body works, and in my opinion, it is a marvelous process. I have tried other treatments in my practice, but this is by far the most effective and efficient way that I have found to treat pain.

Would you like to wait between four and six weeks trying other treatments that may not resolve your pain, or deal with some discomfort now for more immediate relief? We all have busy schedules, and I want to be able to help people get back to their day-to-day lives as soon as possible. No one likes pain — it sucks. But one hour of pain is better than weeks of pain, taking time off of work, and so on. Of course, I am not promising that I can help everyone. Neither am I saying that everyone gets better in one hour, though I wish that could be the case.

In today’s post, I simply wanted to explain why pain is a necessary part of treatment. The body and the brain seem to respond to this treatment well — it just happens to be a painful process. If you want to learn more about why it hurts, then be sure to check out my in-depth article about fascia.

Well, I hope this helps!

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