In the last two decades since I have began teaching massage most of our understanding of joint and muscle pain has changed. Initially practitioners were taught the gate theory of pain and then fascia came into fashion and now we talk about the neuromatrix theory of pain. What will the next decade bring?
It is rare that a practitioner will keep up to date with the latest literature on pain and healing. Most chiropractors and massage therapists are looking for the next technique that is in fashion. I have done this as well. Learning myofascial release, neuro-muscular therapy, trigger point therapy, active release technique, applied kinesiology, and others. Continually educating myself, trying to find the technique that is going to help everybody.
Now, looking back my intention has changed. I recognize now that everyone is different. Every client that comes to see me needs something slightly different. There are patterns that I see and ways that I like to treat neck and shoulder pain, but no treatment is ever the same. Just like no person is the same.
So all of that learning and knowledge wasn’t in vain. It created the foundation and the literacy to be able to embrace and learn from the research that came next. Today, in 2022 I understand muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament pain as primarily mediated by the brain. Yes, there is something happening locally at the tissue level, but that is being interpreted by the brain and the brain’s interpretation is to protect that area of the body. The best way to protect something is through pain.
So much of what I do as a chiropractor is to change the information coming from the skin, joint, muscle and tendon so that the brain can find a new relationship to that information. Preferably one that no longer requires a protective pain response.
It is rare that an individual will be able to go through life without experiencing pain. In both the ancient and modern systems hands on healing has always been an integral part of these treatment protocols.
As our modern understanding of pain grows from the early 19th century and the discovery of morphine’s effect on pain to the many types of anesthesia and analgesics that are used today in medicine we sometimes forget that massage and bone setting (chiropractic) has always been a part of pain management and treatment. In order to understand how chiropractic can benefit pain it can be useful to remember that pain is about the brain. Changing your brain is the best way to change your pain and that’s what I will focus on when you come and see me in the clinic.