The Pain Relief Supermarket
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
Ahh, our good old friend "pain" is back for another round to torture us and our daily activities for the next few weeks. Isn't is weird how it always shows up at the worst possible time?
No, you're not alone. It happens to all of us. Pain. Sooner or later, we will twist an ankle, or overwork our back out in the yard, or worse: wake up with pain and have no idea why. Regardless of how your muscle or joint pain comes about, it sure does get old pretty quick and when you have important things going on in your life it doesn't take much until you ultimately tell yourself, "okay, it's time to do something about this pain, I need to go see a doctor". Now we run into a completely new and unfamiliar problem... which doctor should I see?
If you have ever found yourself in the above scenario, then you know firsthand that making the wrong choice is not only going to waste valuable time while you are suffering with your pain, but it's also going to take a pretty big toll on your wallet too. You don't want to end up in a situation where you are being referred from one provider to another or spending time on a treatment that isn't right for your condition.
By reading the rest of this post, I hope to prevent these struggle from ever happening to you in the future. I understand that for most people, knowing which provider to see and when to see them is an almost impossible task. So stick with me here and I promise I will save you time and money in the future.
Let me first give you a quick lesson about musculoskeletal pain: it is usually the last thing to show up and the first thing to go away. Pain is only a side effect of an underlying dysfunction. It's your body sending out warnings to your brain saying, "something isn't right down here and I think you should come take a look now!".
Pain is like the part of the iceberg sticking out of the water. It's an indicator that something is present beneath the surface, in the case of muscle and joint pain- some type of bio-mechanical dysfunction. The reason that it's so important to understand this is because you need to realize that taking care of pain permanently is about more than just decreasing the "ouch!"
when you go about your day. If you want lasting pain relief, you need to take care of the underlying dysfunction. Knowing this is going to help us choose the right provider for the job.
The image below shows some of our options when choosing a provider for our care. Let's walk through what each provider actually does and how it relates to our pain:
We are going to go in order from least invasive and least expensive and work our way up the ladder.... which is exactly the order that you should be considering when you have an injury. With that being said, the first thing you should always consider (which isn't on the image above) is self treatment!
1. Yourself- How to treat pain on your own.
This consists of self-stretch, movement, and light exercise. The best part is you don't have to make an appointment or pay a dime. If your injury is pretty severe or you don't make any progress on your own, you should pretty quickly jump down to #4 on the list.
2. Personal Trainer- When should you see a personal trainer?
If your pain or injury does not get worse with exercise or maybe even feels better after exercising, it could be a sign that you need more of it. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get a trainer that can help guide you through safe movement for your body and continue to aid you on your journey towards moving better which may help correct that dysfunction on its own. Just keep in mind, although a trainer may be able to adapt certain exercises in response to pain, they cannot legally diagnose or treat the condition causing your pain.
3. Specialty Fitness/Yoga- Will yoga help with muscle and joint pain?
If lots of active movement is just too much for your pain, it may not be a bad idea to step it down a notch and spend some time stretching and rehabbing your muscles in a yoga class. Yoga can help stretch out tight muscles and help you build overall strength throughout your body. This can in turn, help your body take care of this dysfunction on its own.
4. Physical Therapist or Chiropractor- When should I see a chiropractor or physical therapist?
Chiropractors and physical therapists are going to be the best choice as the first provider to see for the vast majority of muscle and joint pain situations. The reason for this is because chiropractors/physical therapists can legally diagnose and treat these musculoskeletal conditions. This is extremely important because once a provider establishes a diagnosis they can confidently treat the condition themselves if it is within their scope or refer you to the exact right provider immediately. These providers also practice in a non-invasive manner (no drugs or surgery). Because they do not use drugs or surgery, the risk is low, and often the value you receive for the price you pay is well worth it.
5. Medical Doctor/Primary Care- When is it time to see your primary care doctor for pain?
Primary care doctors will often be utilized by people in pain as the first option. These doctors have the education and authority to prescribe medications that may help decrease pain, however, they will usually refer a patient to a physical therapist or chiropractor before prescribing any pain relief medications. For this reason, seeing a medical doctor first may not always be the right choice because you ultimately take an extra step before ending up at the office of a chiropractor or physical therapist.
6. Surgery- When is it time to get surgery for pain?
Alas, there is a time and a place for surgery. Not surprisingly, surgery should usually be the last option, only utilized when all other options have been exhausted. There are many amazing surgeons with specialities in different areas, and when necessary, they will operate to alter the structure in your body to correct the underlying dysfunction, and thus decrease pain. Oftentimes you will be referred to a surgeon from #4 or #5 if those providers deem that they cannot help you.
As it turns out, the key to navigating this "pain relief supermarket" is not about knowing which provider to see immediately, but rather, going to a provider who can make that decision for you correctly. This will save you a ton of time and money, and hopefully spare you or someone you love from unneeded suffering as it relates to dealing with muscle and joint pain.
Dr. Michael Hozan is a licensed chiropractic physician and the founder of Movement Clinic: Spine & Sports Injury Center, located in Amherst, Ohio. Dr. Hozan practices using a functional approach aimed at not only decreasing pain from injuries and other conditions, but also restoring full function so that people are able to feel better and move better than ever before. If you are in the Northern or Northeast Ohio area and looking for pain and/or injury solutions for nerve, muscle, and/or joint conditions call (440) 984-7176 or visit mymovementclinic.com.
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