I’ve been a family doctor for 30 years. Fifteen years ago, I started on a quest to understand how one of my fibromyalgia patients was getting better without pills.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most miserable pain problems in the world.
My patient was a stubborn lady who was frustrated with all the specialists and the side effects of pain medication. She planted the seed that began my quest to comb through all available data to explain why she was better. I wanted to use this miracle to help my other patients.
This journey lead me to realize I was given misinformation in the form of incomplete, biased, and outright false information about pain and what causes it. I need to let others recognize this misinformation so that the concept of pain becomes more logical.
Pain is not what I thought!
Pain is an awareness of something other than peace and quiet. It is a “dis-ease” within the body; a distress, a warning, a caution or even just a random signal. All pain may start out the same as an alert to “pay attention.” If the alert is innocent it usually goes away automatically or is resolved with some assistance; such as a scratch, rubbing, stretching, eating, running to the bathroom or resting.
A pulled muscle, twisted ankle, cut, abrasion or laceration will all automatically heal. This healing cascade has been documented and is understood as a natural force not requiring any human intervention.
If the pain alarm is more dangerous, your logic will want confirmation. You will seek help from another. The source of this pain would come from more serious causes such as infections, cancer, tumors, broken bones, torn flesh, a hot stove or what we call space occupying lesions (aneurysms).
There is a third type of pain that is not understood and thus discounted because it does not fit into the innocent or dangerous category. This type actually begins in the innocent class. But if left untreated it will graduate to the dangerous level. Modern medicine calls it chronic pain.
Chronic pain is actually untreated, undertreated, misunderstood, discounted, medicated, pacified innocent pain that is blown up to be perceived as dangerous pain.
Read Janet G. Travell, MD, C. Chan Gunn, MD, Edward S. Rachlin, MD, Clair Davies, Amber Davies, David G. Simons and many others. These authors note that chronic pain emanates from stressed muscles and connective tissues called myofascial pain.
“All pain is myofascial until proven otherwise,” is how Travell puts it.
Myofascial pain is caused by wear and tear that causes a breakdown in muscle fibers. Normally the muscles repair themselves. But if the repair process gets overwhelmed, the healing process falters. An incomplete repair of a muscle fiber is called a “trigger point.” An accumulation of many trigger points within muscles will cause “dis-ease” and the faltering muscle will be sick.
Sick muscles will not function properly; restricting movement, causing a loss of flexibility, weakness, numbness, tingling, stinging, burning pain, and pinched nerves.
Achiness and stiffness will accelerate joint wear-and-tear, leading to bursitis and tendinitis. Tight muscles in the neck and scalp will lead to headaches and sinus issues. Tight muscles in the arm will lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In the buttock, tight muscles can cause sciatica. In the lower legs they will restrict or block arteries, causing numbness in the legs and feet.
Chronic pain can masquerade as many complex problems in medicine. Belittling this treatable pain will often lead to insomnia and anxiety. Some think that chronic pain, if left untreated, can lead to a form of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Myofascial pain cannot be fixed by a surgeon’s hands as if it were a cancer or a tumor. It cannot be treated solely with pain pills.
Myofascial pain will corrupt the soul, so the soul has to be included in the therapy. The whole person has to be treated; mind, body and soul.
Myofascial pain will grow and spread to other parts of the body and burn deeply into the flesh.
Myofascial Release Therapy (MRT) comes in simple to complex forms. There are effective protocols to begin the healing process. ALL are safe, effective and straightforward. Yoga, acupuncture, stretching, and massage are all forms of MRT.
MRT must be done at the beginning of a chronic pain illness so that a fleeting ache, spasm, sting or shock will not evolve into a full blown entity.
MRT will reignite the healing cascade so the muscles and tissues will complete the healing cycle.
Then all the false signaling will go away, allowing better peace and harmony.
Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD, is a family practice physician in Dallas, Texas. He is a graduate of Howard University School of Medicine and interned at Howard University Hospital and D.C. General Hospital. He is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and studied acupuncture at the Helms Institute of Acupuncture.
Dr. Rodrigues’ website can be found here.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.