Health Issues: What Does Your Pain Mean?
When you visit your chiropractor, one of the first questions they’ll ask you is, “Where does it hurt?” Determining the source of your pain is key to effectively treating it and promoting healing within the body.
ChiroCare of Florida is home to a plethora of chiropractic and wellness services. Use the diagram below to locate your pain points, and discover how your ChiroCare of Florida chiropractor could treat them.
Pain in the Upper Body:
Pain in the upper body is classified as pain radiating from the cervical spine through the thoracic spine.
Cervical Spine | Neck Pain
Pain: Pain in the neck is technically referred to as the pain located in the cervical spine.The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and extend down to the thoracic spine. Essentially, it runs from the nape of your neck, down to the tops of your shoulders.
There are various reasons for neck pain, including:
- Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerves)
- Herniated disc
- Neck fracture
- Neck strain (whiplash)
- Cervical dislocation
Neck injuries are often sustained during auto accidents, but can also occur if you’ve been sleeping in an irregular position or have poor posture habits.
Treatment: If the neck has experienced trauma in an accident, your chiropractor will recommend you wear a brace to allow the injury to heal. This should be followed by a period of rehabilitation, to ensure you get the full range of motion back in your neck.
For those suffering herniated discs, fractures, or whiplash, physical therapy, massage therapy, and spinal adjustments are typically needed in a series of visits. Your chiropractor will utilize ultrasound therapy to help alleviate the pain and inflammation involved in these types of injuries.
Headaches and Migraines
Pain: Headaches can be caused by a variety of conditions, including diet, environmental stimuli, stress, or hormonal changes. For some, allergies can be triggering painful sinus headaches. For others, tension at the base of skull results in migraines. Your chiropractor will need to perform a few tests to first assess where your headaches are stemming from.
Treatment: To relieve headaches and migraines, your chiropractor will typically perform a series of spinal adjustments to improve spinal function, alleviate stress on the body, and relieve tension. Additional treatment for headaches and migraines include instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) to relieve muscle pain and inflammation, and Electric Stimulation (E-Stim) to relax muscles and alleviate pain.
Occipital Bone | Base of Skull
Pain: The occipital bone is the medical name for the base of your skull. Some experience pain in the occipital bone, which is frequently accompanied by headaches. The occipital bone is home to occipital nerves, which can become irritated if surrounding tissue becomes inflamed.
Pain can be throbbing, aching, burning, or sharp. When pain in this region is accompanied by intense headaches, it is likely the underlying issue is occipital neuralgia, a form of headache that causes pain along the upper neck and back of the head.
Treatment: Before beginning treatment, your chiropractor will most likely request medical image testing, such as X-Ray or MRI to fully analyze your situation. Common treatment for this type of pain is massage therapy, which can relax tissue and decrease the inflammation that is irritating nerves. Likewise, your chiropractor will perform a spinal adjustment to ensure that your spinal column is not restricting nerve pathways up into the occipital region.
To further alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, your chiropractor may recommend cryotherapy. This cold treatment will allow the body to quickly re-oxygenate blood and accelerate healing of the muscles and organs.
Pain: Damage to the muscles of the neck typically occur during trauma, such as whiplash. Whiplash causes the head to rapidly push forward and then immediately snap backward, resulting in a tear to the muscle. This tissue sprain results in pain, discomfort, and can even have symptoms such as headaches and pain in the back and shoulder.
You can also pull neck muscles by over-exerting your body or exercising improperly.
Treatment: Damage to the tissue of the neck is treated similarly to a cervical spine injury. For some trauma cases, your chiropractor will recommend a brace to allow the area time to heal. Ultrasound therapy is commonly used to treat the pain and inflammation that accompanies this type of injury.
Ultrasound therapy is a soothing treatment that creates a feeling of warmth in the effected area. Ultrasound releases tension held in the muscles and increases blood circulation to promote healing in the body.
Pain: The spine is formed by 33 interlocking bones called vertebrae. They are stacked on top of each other, separated by intervertebral discs. As we grow older, the number of vertebrae reduces to 26, as those located in both the sacrum and coccyx fuse together.
Pain in the vertebrae can be caused by wear and tear resulting in degeneration. This means the cartilage that covers the structure is worn away, often resulting in loss of bone density. Oftentimes this can lead to fractures of the vertebrae.
However, vertebral fractures can also be the result of high-energy trauma, such as slip and fall injuries or car accidents. Likewise, postural problems can result in pain or discomfort among vertebrae.
Treatment: The most effective method your chiropractor could utilize to diminish the effect of vertebral pain is to perform spinal adjustments. Manipulations to the spinal vertebrae offer a plethora of benefits, including an increase in range of motion, improved alignment, and relief of many symptoms throughout the body, including pain, inflammation, and limited movement.
Aside from manual adjustments, your chiropractor may also use the Activator Technique. This is an instrument assisted spinal manipulation which can aid in healing the damaged vertebrae.
Pain: Spinal discs are located between each vertebrae of the spine. A disc is composed of a rubbery capsule of connective tissue, which has a soft, jelly-like center. The purpose of discs is to absorb shock to the spine and provide flexibility.
While a disc is shock absorbent, that does not mean that it is immune to being injured. In fact, injuries to the disc are one of the most common reasons an individual visits a chiropractor. A disc can rupture, and it’s jelly-like center can ooze through it’s more fibrous outer capsule. This is known as a herniated disc, and pain stems from the leaking of the inner fluid aggravating surrounding nerves.
A disc can also slip, meaning it falls out of alignment. This happens in stages, and when caught soon enough can be placed in proper alignment with just a few spinal adjustments. Likewise, a disc can also degenerate, meaning it begins to lose it’s shape and size, causing vertebrae to rub against themselves.
Treatment: Treatment for disc injuries typically begins with spinal alignments. This process ensures that the disc is placed in its respective location and can begin to heal. When a disc is damaged, your chiropractor will often utilize a treatment such as ultrasound to penetrate deep into the spine and provide warming comfort.
Likewise, your chiropractor can utilize Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) to relieve muscle pain and inflammation that results from damage to the disc. At ChiroCare of Florida, we utilize the Graston Technique, a patented technique that targets tightness and tension deep beneath the surface of the skin to provide pain relief.
Pain: Facet joints are located between each vertebral disc, and there are over 100 contained in the spine. These joints allow the spine to be flexible and enable you to be able to bend and twist. In order to move smoothly, these joints have cartilage and fluid lubricating them, allowing them to glide without grinding against one another. Nerves exit the spinal cord through these joints as well.
Pain can arise from a variety of issues involving the facet joints, but the most common is facet joint syndrome, more commonly known as osteoarthritis. This is when the joints become inflamed. Osteoarthritis can be caused by a combination of factors, including age, too much pressure on the joints due to degeneration of the disc, or injury.
Chronic inflammation can diminish the fluid and cartilage located in the facet joint, causing bone to rub against bone.
Treatment: Your chiropractor will most likely begin treatment by fully examining the spine, including MRI or X-Ray medical image testing. Following the initial examination, your chiropractor will perform a series of adjustments to induce motion along the vertebrae of the spine. To alleviate the pain and discomfort of inflamed joints your chiropractor will utilize a variety of treatments, including
- Cryotherapy – This treatment utilizes temperatures as low as -270 degrees to reduce inflammation in the joints.
- Hot Laser – Hot laser treatment penetrates deep into tissue to relieve inflammation and promote healing.
- Ultrasound Therapy – Ultrasound targets waves of energy into the body to increase blood circulation and decrease inflammation.
- Nutritional Support – Your diet can have a massive effect on your body’s reaction to chronic inflammation. Your chiropractor can recommend diet and lifestyle changes to effectively reduce pain levels.
Pain: Your spine is home to a network of nerves, all which require communication with another to operate properly. Interrupted nerve signals can cause tingling or pins and needles sensations in the hands, feet, arms, and legs, as well as numbness. When an area loses nerve flow, pain signals can often be sent to the brain. Typically that area also experiences a limited range of motion and feels tense.
Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of issues, most typically associated to damage to the spinal discs. When the discs of the spine are injured or are not in their respective space within the spine, they can place pressure on or aggravate the nerves. This injury is referred to as a pinched nerve. Additionally, inflammation can restrict nerve pathways.
One of the most tricky diseases to diagnose is fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain throughout the body, which is often accompanied by fatigue and sleep issues. Many researchers believe fibromyalgia amplifies pain signals sent to the brain, which travel along the nerve pathway.
Treatment: To properly treat nerve damage, the surrounding tissue and bone must first be operating correctly. This means that if you are suffering from a pinched nerve, the disc that is causing the pain must be treated by means of spinal adjustment or the Activator Technique.
To alleviate the effect of nerve pain, hot and cold treatment is often used. Using warm compresses, hot laser treatments, applying ice to the affected area, and utilizing cryotherapy can minimize pain and discomfort. Another treatment to alleviate the symptoms of nerve pain is Electric Stimulation, also known as E-Stim.
E-Stim is a technique in which small electrodes are placed on the skin above the area that is experiencing pain. These electrodes will then be used to pass minor electrical impulses into an injured muscle or tendon. The impulses will cause the muscle to contract and relax repeatedly, which leads to a final state of fatigue, releasing both stress and tension carried by the nerve.
Pain: Whether you’re an athlete suffering from game-time injuries, you’ve slept wrong, or you’re suffering whiplash, pain in the shoulders is often a side effect of a larger, more treatable problem. Pain in the shoulders can be throbbing, stabbing, or dull. Many patients suffer from muscle tension and pain throughout this area.
Treatment: Before treating your pain, your chiropractor will most likely request a physical examination and X-Ray to determine the source of the ailment. To relieve tension in the muscle, your chiropractor may use the Graston Technique to smooth out knots or scar tissue. Your chiropractor can also utilize ultrasound therapy to increase blood circulation and decrease inflammation.
Shoulder pain is often a symptom of whiplash injury. If this is the case, your chiropractor may also utilize Electric Stimulation (E-Stim), which relaxes muscles and helps treat pain through a minimally invasive technique.
Thoracic Spine | Mid-Back Pain
Pain: The thoracic spine is essentially the middle of your back. It runs from the tops of the shoulders through your mid-back. The thoracic spine does not experience as much movement as the cervical spine or lumbar spine, but can still be injured due to accidents or trauma. Pain in this region can be caused by:
- Slipped discs
- Herniated discs
- Pinched nerves
- Degenerating discs
Treatment: Treatment for thoracic spine pain is dependent on the cause of the discomfort. A common method of providing pain relief to this region is through massage therapy. Massage therapy has many benefits, including relieving muscle pain, increasing relaxation in soft tissue, improving joint mobility, improving posture, and aiding sleep quality.
Pain in the Lower Body:
Pain in the lower body can be classified from the lumbar spine down the legs.
Lumbar Spine | Lower Back Pain
Pain: Pain in the lumbar spine can be the result of many issues, however the most common are slipped, herniated disc, or degenerative disc. Most people bend from the lumbar spine when reaching down to lift something, and often accidentally injure the area. The lumbar spine can also be injured through over-exertion or over-use in the workplace.
Treatment: Treatment for pain in the lower back typically begins with spinal manipulations. Since the lumbar spine is constantly moving it’s relatively easy for these vertebrae to move out of alignment, and your chiropractor’s first step will be to assure the entire spinal column in aligned.
After your chiropractor has addressed the alignment of vertebrae and discs, they will most likely move along to reducing pain and inflammation. This can be done with the use of ultrasound therapy as well as massage therapy. Whereas chiropractic can adjust the spine and joints, massage therapists manipulate soft tissue, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This process can bring down swelling and provide pain relief.
Pain: Pain in the pelvis is very common among women, specifically those who are currently or have just been pregnant. However, men can also experience pelvic pain. Aside from changes to the body made during pregnancy, nerve conditions as well as a broken pelvis can result in pain.
Additionally, issues within joints as well as prolonged lifting of heavy items can aggravate the pelvis.
Treatment: Your chiropractor will most likely issue medical image testing, such as MRI or CT scan to check on the status of your pelvis. Depending on the cause and how intense and often the pain is, your chiropractor will then develop a treatment plan.
To begin, your chiropractor will assist the pelvis in becoming more mobile, while also reducing the amount of inflammation in the joints. During this stage, the use of ice packs, cryotherapy, and adjustments are beneficial. Next, your chiropractor may recommend you complete a series of physical therapy sessions regain strength.
Pain: Though not located directly in the bones or tissue, chiropractic care can be helpful with digestive issues. Problems in the spine have been linked to internal organ problems. When the spine is aligned improperly, the nerves around the thoracic and lumbar spine can be strained, making it more difficult to send out proper signals to the digestive organs.
Treatment: When the nerves around the thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine are interrupted, digestive issues may arise. To correct this issue, your chiropractor will perform an alignment. By having your spine realigned, your chiropractor can improve the transmission of nerve signals and allow your nervous and digestive systems to operate at peak levels.
Tailbone | Coccyx
Pain: The coccyx, typically referred to as the tailbone, is located at the bottom of the spine known as the sacrum. Tailbone injuries can result in a bruise, dislocation, or even a fracture of the coccyx. The pain may get worse when you sit down or stand up, or when you lean back while sitting. In some cases, the pain can shoot all the way down your legs.
One can injure the tailbone in a variety of ways, but the most common is a direct trauma, such as a fall or sports injury.
Treatment: A tailbone injury can take up to 8 to 12 weeks to heal, depending on the severity of the injury. This injury requires a lot of rest, and your chiropractor will most likely recommend an accessory such as a doughnut pillow to relieve the pressure you place on it. During the time of healing, your chiropractor may use hot and cold treatments to decrease inflammation. Additionally, massage therapy may be used to soothe the surrounding tissue and promote healing through the increase of blood circulation.
Pain in the Arms and Legs:
Pain in the arms and legs are often a result of issues originating in the spine. However, the tissue and nerves located throughout your arms and legs are subject to damage of their own.
Pain: Pain involving the sciatic nerve typically equates to sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, running from the hip down the thigh. Sciatica is when pain radiates along the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain running down one or both legs as well as the lower back. This often results in tingling or numbness, as well as difficulty walking and muscle weakness.
Pain from sciatica can can be mild, severe, radiating, or sharp, and can even cause a burning sensation. This pain often limits the sleep of those suffering.
Treatment: While suffering from sciatica can seem impossible at time, there are ways for your chiropractor to ease the pain. Spinal manipulation, stretching, regular massages, and hot and cold therapy can all be helpful for treating this condition. Likewise, acupuncture can help alleviate the discomfort of sciatica.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of alternative medicines. It involves the insertion of small needles into the skin, which results in the release of endorphins. Your body naturally produces endorphins to curb pain sensations. By boosting your production of endorphins, you’re decreasing your pain levels naturally and efficiently.
Pain: Similar to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder in the joints, which typically affects the hands and feet. The cartilage and fluid found naturally in joints wears away, and the lining of joints experience painful swelling. Joints become stiff and tender, and muscles can feel weak and fatigued.
Treatment: One of the most effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis is cryotherapy. Originally developed in Japan in 1978, the main purpose of cryotherapy was to treat the disorder. Using liquid nitrogen, a cryotherapy chamber is made drastically cold, lowering the skin’s temperature by approximately 30 to 50% in two to three minutes. With cryotherapy, the entire body is cold, so inflammation is reduced throughout the entire body.
Pain: Tendinitis is a condition in which the tissue connecting muscle to bone becomes inflamed.This connective tissue is called a tendon, and they’re found throughout your entire body, supporting your muscles and bones. Tendinitis is often found in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, but it can also be found in the knees and heels.
When found in the elbow, tendinitis is often referred to as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow.
Treatment: One of the most common treatments for inflamed tendons is Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM). The Graston Technique used at ChiroCare of Florida utilizes a patented instrument to locate trigger points within the tissue and increases blood flow to the area. This relaxes the tissue and decreases inflammation. Additionally, ultrasound therapy or hot laser can be used to apply warmth deep into the tissue and alleviate pain.
Pain: At some point or another, we’ve all dealt with a muscle cramp. Muscle cramps are caused by strong, painful contractions of the muscle that occur suddenly and without warning. This tightening of the muscle can last from a few seconds to several minutes, and are sometimes referred to as muscle spasms. This results in quick, sharp bursts of pain that can occur throughout the body.
Treatment: There are several methods your chiropractor may want to utilize to help with the pain of muscle cramps. The first is Electric Stimulation (E-Stim) Therapy, which will utilize minor electrical impulses to cause the muscle to contract on command. While you may be thinking you wouldn’t want to cure your contraction pain with more contraction, the purpose of E-Stim is to gradually fatigue the muscle, so it reaches a point of rest. During this time, the muscle will release its tension and relax, relieving pain.
Additionally, your chiropractor could utilize massage therapy to soothe the muscle and increase blood circulation. Ultrasound therapy and the Graston Technique could also be used to penetrate deep into the tissue to alleviate pain.
Pain: Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a condition in which the shoulder joint is plagued by stiffness and pain. Symptoms gradually worsen over time, but can be categorized as limited motion, inflammation, and pain when attempting to move the arm. Frozen shoulder occurs in three stages:
- The Freezing Stage – Range of motion begins to become limited.
- The Frozen Stage – The shoulder becomes stiff.
- The Thawing Phase – Range of motion begins to improve.
Depending on which stage you visit your chiropractor, your treatment plan will vary.
Treatment: To effectively treat frozen shoulder your chiropractor will work with you through a variety of range-of-motion exercises. It is crucial to keep motion in the arm. Your chiropractor will also perform a series of adjustments, to improve mobility in the joints and decrease discomfort.
To alleviate pain, your chiropractor will most likely recommend a treatment such as cryotherapy which is proven to decrease inflammation. Treatments like ultrasound therapy may also be used to increase blood flow to the area and promote healing.