Pain is one of the unfortunate things most of us will suffer at some stage of our lives, however, we don't have to live with it. Luckily there are many means of treating pain, the problem is, not all of them treat all types of pain. Depending on what type of pain you suffer, be it back pain, neck pain, knee pain, headaches or you have had a whiplash, the treatment approach will differ according to the signs and symptoms found on assessment.
In my years as a Physiotherapist, I have found there are 3 main systems involved in pain patterns, each one in a state of dysfunction, but all 3 integrated so closely, that they all require treatment to allow full recovery. These systems are the Autonomic nervous system, (ANS) the circulatory system, and the fascial system. Each one of these systems can affect the other 2 and vice versa. The circulation keeps the other 2 systems alive, but the ANS controls the circulation, while the fascia supports and wraps around the other 2 systems, thus allowing them to work well.
This intricate relationship, when it becomes dysfunctonal, causes most pain, and in some researchers eyes, is also responsible for most diseases, not to mention a change in another important system, the muscular system. The question is which system fails first? This is not always easy to answer, however, certain pain patterns can give us clues. Let's look at pain that occurs with no known injury or trauma, the "I woke one morning with pain in my low back" - type pain.
In this situation the starting point did not happen when the pain started. It is often an indication of some form of overuse, be it physical, mental or emotional, which results in the ANS becoming fatigued from over-demand (having to increase the rate of blood flow to counter the stress). This fatigue leads to altered blood flow rate to certain parts of the body.
At this stage the physical pattern begins, with weakness of muscles and stiffness of fascia, which results in biomechanical dysfunction. As the body is designed to perform as it is demanded from, it will naturally compensate for the weakness and stiffness. By doing this it puts the strain on other structures in the area or even far from the area, thus introducing another overuse pattern.
This can go on for a while until the body cannot compensate any further, at which time pain becomes part of the sequence. From what has been said above it is not hard to understand that the pain could be nowhere near the original dysfunction, and can easily be mis-treated. So, is your low back pain a back problem? In most cases, NO. It is just the area that has been compensating for another area that is not working well.
So the secret to a successful treatment is the accurate assessment of the overall dysfunction of the 3 systems mentioned above, and then the appropriate treatment administered to these. Pain will settle in most cases when the cause is removed, but until all these systems are cleared and working well, the pain may never go, or if it does, it may return in the future