This is something I hear patients say all the time when they come to see me. Almost as if to apologize for not having something more dramatic to show for their pain or look for reassurance that it’s nothing too serious.
Guess what? It probably is “just” a muscle and that’s a perfectly adequate reason for your pain. It may not seem serious if it’s “just” a muscle but it’s not a free pass for you to shrug it off just because it’s not life threatening. Most of the pain that we experience when we’re talking about the everyday variety of pain is soft tissue based. This means it’s not commonly coming from your bones or discs unless you’ve had a very distinct physical trauma recently or are in an advanced state of chronic dysfunction which you would already know about from a looong history of pain. Of course it’s up to the professional you choose to see to find out whether or not there is a more serious underlying cause for your pain. I can only speak of generalities based on the vast majority of pain that I treat conservatively in my chiropractic practice.
A lot of the pain I see and treat is something that sneaks up on people, for example: the pain that you wake up with after going to bed feeling fine or the pain you discover when you try to stand up from your desk or the couch. These kinds of everyday pains are generally being generated by the strain and damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint capsules. The reason these structures are stressed and signaling pain is what I’m always interested in. The relationship between bones and joints, either during movement or at rest or during transitions from inactivity to activity, are the reasons that the soft tissues of the body start to complain with pain. Because it’s up to the soft tissues to hold everything together they are the ones that will be the first to notice if un safe movement or positioning is happening.
Sometimes figuring out which combination of movements, habits or positions led to the irritation of these pain generating structures is the complicated part. Determining these things is usually key to lasting relief.
What I do with chiropractic is restore normal functioning to the joints of the body that have stopped pulling their full weight. Sometimes the joints stop working optimally because of pain in the soft tissues and sometimes other reasons cause the joints to stop working fully first and then the resulting uneven work load is the reason for the soft tissue pain. Restoring motion is the first step. That usually brings a lot of relief from the pain. Then comes the hard work of maintaining that healthy movement on a daily basis in order to keep those muscles from hurting. Sometimes this requires a complete re-assessment of how to go about the daily tasks that we come to take for granted like brushing our teeth or washing the dishes or even what we think is restorative unwinding on the couch.
Read more about how to stop everyday pain here.