The DANGERS of Treating Your “Muscle” Pain

By Dr. Scott Rosenthal

Do you suffer from muscle pain and spasms? Have you tried stretching, various drugs or bed rest to no avail? It may be that your muscles are not really the problem.

Why do you hurt? Perhaps the pain started after your heroic efforts to clear your lawn of leaves or after many hours hunched over a computer screen or smartphone. A fender bender? Stress? Too much exercise? Not enough?  Did you fall, sneeze, laugh, cough, hug, walk, run, dance, crawl the wrong way? Maybe it’s your golf swing, your tennis serve, that flat tire you changed or the extra tire you’re carrying around. Or do you simply hurt for no apparent reason? 

Whatever the cause of your pain, WHY BLAME YOUR MUSCLES?

Just because you have over 650 of them does not mean your muscles are the underlying problem. This article is committed to giving your muscles the love and respect they deserve and finally letting them off the hook. 

Why were you told that your back or neck pain was muscular? It can be particularly perplexing when you have been flexing the sore area for weeks, months or even years. Excluding significant tears or rare diseases, most muscular problems heal relatively quickly… usually in days or weeks. If your pain continues, the real problem is often that your muscles are being asked to work harder and longer than their design allows.

As a doctor of chiropractic, I was taught to view your body in an integrative manner and to look beyond the symptoms for the underlying cause. When muscles are sore and tired or flat out painful, it is valuable to think like a chiropractor and ask, “Is my muscle the primary problem, or is the muscle compensating for another more serious issue?”

If your spinal or pelvic bones shift out of their normal position, the spinal cord and exiting nerves may become injured. Any compromise to your nervous system threatens your brain’s ability to coordinate and control the different parts of your body. The result is loss of function and a diminished level of health. In response to such insults, your muscles are wisely directed to contract in order to hold the spine (and nervous system) from being further compromised. For example, if the bones within your back shift to the right, the muscles on your left side tighten to prevent further misalignment and damage to the nerves in that region. If your spinal condition persists, muscles become painfully fatigued and in spasm.

If your muscles hurt, what are the risks of treating them? By removing your spasms and/or pain artificially (with drugs, heat or ice, massage, etc.), the compensation is removed as well. Further injury to your underlying problem is likely. In the case of your spine and pelvis, complications down the road may range from nerve damage and loss of function to disc problems and accelerated arthritic degeneration. In severe cases, muscle pain may need to be temporarily treated with medications. When this situation exists, be cautious by recognizing that the primary problem may still exist and seek a solution to what caused the muscles to overwork in the first place.

Chiropractic looks for and corrects the underlying problems that cause your muscles to spasm and hurt. Once resolved, your increased muscle activity will no longer be necessary, and your pain will vanish naturally.