About 80 percent of the American population experiences low back pain. An estimated 5.3 million people age 50 and older have osteoporosis. And arthritis affects 1 out of 5 adults.
Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a leading cause of lost wages and debilitating pain that impacts daily living. These types of afflictions involve muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. At some point in life, everyone will have some kind of experience with pain in these areas.
The good news? There are many treatment options for musculoskeletal pain.
Here are 9 ways to address your pain by getting down to the root cause.
1. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy (PT) involves a lot of different styles of treatment for musculoskeletal pain. Targeted exercise, low-impact aerobics, and stretching exercises will help strengthen weak muscles and increase flexibility.
Osteopathic manipulation therapy (OMT) is a type of PT that involves hands-on care for musculoskeletal pain. The OMT therapist will help you to stretch by using resistance and gentle pressure to calm muscle spasms and inflamed tissues.
Some PTs use tools such as TENS units, ultrasound machines, aquatic and cold laser therapies that can help promote healing and provide relief from pain.
2. Shockwave Therapy
Also known as Extracorporeal shock wave therapy, (ESWT) shockwave therapy involves the delivery of shock waves to injured soft tissue to reduce pain and promote healing. This method has proven helpful for patients with musculoskeletal back, flank, and shoulder pain, as well as chronic pain in other parts of the body.
Over a series of treatments, the therapist uses a shockwave device that delivers high-energy acoustical waves that promote regeneration and repair of cells. This non-invasive therapy has little to no side effects and is fast gaining popularity as an effective treatment for chronic pain and injury.
For acute injuries, rest is best to start the healing process. But, for a lot of chronic problems, gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming is a must, even though there might be some pain involved.
The best exercise regimen is the one your therapist puts together for you, and will most likely involve stretching as well as strengthening exercises targeted to your particular condition and your body. Movement is an important part of musculoskeletal pain relief, so don’t shy away from it unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are familiar medications, such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, or Naproxen. These over-the-counter meds block certain enzymes that make prostaglandins, which cause swelling and pain.
Some NSAIDs are only available with a prescription, such as Celebrex, Naprosyn, and Daypro.
These drugs are extremely effective in relieving swelling and pain and are a go-to method for helping patients in distress.
Long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to other problems, particularly in the gastrointestinal area, so weaning off gradually as you progress is a good idea.
5. Ice and Heat
Applying ice or heat to sore muscles is an easy way to ease your pain and swelling without drugs. Ice will dull your pain and reduce swelling by lessening blood flow to the injured area. Applying heat will help muscles relax and unwind, and increase blood flow to the injured area.
If you have a condition such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or vascular disease, you should NOT use heat therapy. People with poor circulation or sensory disorders should stay away from cold therapy.
You can alternate heat and ice as well, but be sure to stop if either of these treatments causes more pain.
Chiropractic therapy is a hands-on therapy that focuses on spinal manipulation. The chiropractor uses controlled force to joints of the spine that have become restricted in their movement. The theory behind chiropractic care is if the spine is in proper alignment, the body can heal itself without a lot of medication or surgery.
Chiropractic doctors also perform soft-tissue therapies and can prescribe corrective exercises. Some even specialize in nutrition and exercise physiology.
7. Therapeutic Massage
While there’s no doubt a massage will relax you, a therapeutic massage or a deep tissue massage will release tension in muscles, and your facia, or connective muscle tissue.
A type of therapeutic massage called myofascial release, in which the therapist manipulates in and around areas of tension, paying special attention to “trigger points” that can become hard and knotted.
A therapeutic massage requires the therapist to use a more intense touch, which might be a little painful at first but will yield more freedom of movement, and thus, less pain later.
8. Acupuncture, Dry Needling, Acupressure
The use of needles to stimulate energy flow is a practice that goes as far back as 16th century China. It was believed that imbalance in the body’s energy field caused disease and injury. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are placed in the body’s 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to correct these imbalances.
Acupuncture attacks chronic pain by helping to increase endorphins. The placement of the needles is near nerves, which, when stimulated, sends messages to the nervous system, causing endorphins to be released. Endorphins block messages of pain from being sent to the brain.
Dry needling has only recently become popular as a therapeutic method. Again, needles are used in the skin, but this time they are put into trigger points or muscles that are knotted up. The needles are believed to loosen up those hard muscles and reduce pain.
Acupressure is acupuncture without the needles. The therapist uses pressure on meridians rather than needles for tension release and pain relief.
9. Relaxation Techniques
Your stress hormone, called cortisol, is a major factor in causing illness or injury. Chronic stress in life raises cortisol levels, but learning to relax will lower them.
Meditation, biofeedback, and other mind-body techniques help you refine how you perceive pain, making some pain easier to handle and overcome.
Handling Musculoskeletal Pain
Musculoskeletal pain is not fun, but it is a common problem.
If your pain is unbearable or has lasted many days, a call to the doctor is in order. Depending on your diagnosis, you and your doctor can create a recovery and pain management plan that will help you heal. At-home remedies such as ice/heat, exercise, and NSAIDs can help you heal on your own.
If you are dealing with an acute injury, or chronic back, neck, or shoulder pain, contact us to investigate shockwave therapy in the comfort of your home.