When focusing on pain isn’t aiming for the bullseye

You may or may not know that I’m a keen target shooter in my spare time. While there are many rings around a target, each with various levels of reward when struck, there is a single bullseye that I’m also aiming to hit. It’s the same when it comes to dealing with your body and its various idiosyncrasies. All too often we see people who believe that pain relief is the bullseye, when it’s more commonly one of the rings around it. So hitting the pain and getting it gone will still give us points on the board, but there’s a more precise, better target we can aim for which can ultimately give that person a better quality of life. While we do want to hit that ring of pain and get it dealt with, it’s just one of the components of the bigger target and if we send someone on their way with only a few points on the board we haven’t really completed the game.

Health and wellness is a process and a journey with various milestones along the way. Primarily people see a chiropractor for pain relief – at least initially. But when the pain is relieved they may think the only goal has been achieved and stop treatment, only to find the problem returns after some time or other issues haven’t been resolved. These are generally structural and/or functional problems that have been building over time.

While it’s important to reduce pain in the first instance so that daily living can be better managed, it’s important to understand and deal with why the pain is present in the first place and how we can reduce the likelihood of its recurrence. Many people we see have had structural instabilities building over years. These may have even been the result of a simple childhood tumble out of a tree or off a bike, a broken nose when bumping into the swimming pool wall, but it could be causing them a range of secondary issues. It’s not just about sending someone off with their pain reduced, but working through the underlying cause so that their body functions better as a whole. In some instances the pain IS the bullseye, but generally in most cases it’s one of those outer rings that gets our initial points on the board while we keep working towards the ultimate goal.

As we all know, goals generally take time and effort to achieve. We work towards them in small steps. It’s important to establish and balance quality of life goals in conjunction with the critical, immediate goals that you want to achieve. For example, you might initially present with neck pain, but the bigger issue is that you’re not getting a good night’s sleep or you’re getting frequent headaches. If we focus on the neck pain in isolation and send you on your way once your pain has been relieved, we haven’t done our duty to you in offering you the best care that we are capable of and improving how your body functions. Reducing your neck pain is simply the first milestone we hit when working towards decreasing headaches or regularly getting a restful night’s sleep.

Harvard Health has suggested that the opioid crisis has stemmed from the mindset of pain relief being the primary goal while ignoring other ways to improve the quality of life for people who experience pain (e.g. increasing energy, improving sleep, better emotional wellbeing etc.). We need to remember that quality of life and good health is not isolated to pain management but also involves our neurological function, energy levels, nutritional health, ability to carry out daily living activities, mental wellbeing etc. If we isolate our healthcare goals to simply reducing pain, we’re overlooking a myriad of other, just as achievable, goals that we could be working towards.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the body has natural pain-relieving hormones which are produced when other quality-of-life factors are functioning well. For example, if we can increase someone’s range of motion and reduce their headaches, they might have more energy for exercise and then produce more endorphins (natural pain-relievers). Or if we can help them find the right probiotic they may develop healthier levels of serotonin, which is associated with improved mood, digestion, and sleep. Helping someone achieve small milestones in their health over time continues to trigger dopamine and valuing each person we see as an individual and building rapport with them (a core value of our practice) helps build healthy levels of oxytocin. All of these hormones are associated with a better quality of life, and while only endorphins are directly related to pain management, all four hormones play a part in helping the body deal with it.

As chiropractors, we’re here to help your entire body function at its best. While we use spinal corrections as the method to achieve this, here at Precision we also have great relationships with healthcare professionals who are experts in the areas of nutrition, exercise, and medicine to call on for specialised care when required. We want to help you look beyond the immediate goals, those outer rings of the target, and bring your body into a state where your quality of life is improved across more than just pain. We’re here to identify and help you hit whatever the quality of life bullseye may look like for you.

If you want to talk with us about setting some goals for your own health, or you have a loved one in mind who we can help, feel free to book a Complimentary Chat or contact us here. We’d love to meet you!

References:

Effects of 12 Weeks of Chiropractic Care on Central Integration of Dual Somatosensory Input in Chronic Pain Patients: A Preliminary Study – www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(16)30244-5/fulltext

Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors- Systematic Review Article – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449495/

Harvard Health Publishing: The right goal when managing pain – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-right-goal-when-managing-pain-201512188865

Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study – https://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2016/3704964/

Risk of acute myocardial infarction with NSAIDs in real world use: bayesian meta-analysis of individual patient data – http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1909

The growing problem of co-treatment with opioids and benzodiazepines – www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j1224

The Neurochemicals of Happiness – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness

The Role of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Low Back Pain – https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2616379

About the Author Dr Edward Roper

Ed has been practicing in Tauranga since 2009, and established Precision Chiropractic in 2012. Prior to this, Ed spent several years in a chiropractic practice in Albany, Auckland.