Your body goes through a lot when you have an injury. You immediately feel pain and then inflammation surrounds the tissues to help heal the area. Once things start feeling better, many people jump back into their daily activities – sometimes too early, which can cause pain again. Does this sound familiar to you? Then it’s time to talk to your doctor of chiropractic about active therapy.
Active therapy is the process of retraining muscles surrounding an injury. The type of active care treatment recommended will be specific to your situation. It can include rehabilitation exercises that you complete with your chiropractor’s help and passive therapies chiropractors administer to you as needed, such as ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, laser, heat, or ice. Why is Active Therapy Beneficial? When we sustain an injury, sometimes the pain or restriction of motion causes us to alter how we move to avoid further injuring that area. What this can lead to, though, is a movement pattern that is not optimal and can cause different muscles to work too hard or not hard enough. When a muscle is protecting itself after an injury, it can become tight (hypertonic). This can lead to the surrounding muscles becoming weak (hypotonic). Weak muscles don’t need to work as hard because the hypertonic muscles are compensating for them. Think of it this way: Your body is going to take the path of least resistance. When a muscle is already tight, the body will use that muscle, even if it’s performing a job that’s not theirs. This, in turn, continues to make the muscle increasingly tight, and the surrounding muscles become weaker and weaker. The result? More pain in the future via your tight muscles overworking and the possible formation of a trigger point or tender spot within the overworked muscle can cause more pain or is painful when you massage or push on it. By introducing active therapy after an injury, your doctor of chiropractic allows the retraining of muscles and helps them “remember” their job, and reduces the likelihood of hyper/hypotonicity and trigger point formation. This can decrease the odds of pain or re-injury in the future. When Everyday Activities Cause Pain Although the intense movements involved in sports activities are most often associated with muscle or joint pain, sometimes pain is associated with things we do throughout a “normal” day. When we sit for long periods, sometimes we start slouching, causing misuse or overuse of specific muscles, ligaments, or tendons. With poor seated posture, our pectoralis muscles in the front of our chest and the sub-occipitals at the base of our skull can get very tight. In turn, our muscles in our mid-back and the front of our neck get weak. This is called an upper-crossed syndrome, leading to headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, mid-back pain – even numbness in arms and fingers. Being willing to “retrain” these muscles to work the way they are supposed to through active therapy can alleviate this type of pain and reduce the chances of future injuries. Doctor of Chiropractic: Leading the Way to a Less Pain-filled Life