Pain, at a physiological level, is stimulation of sensitive nerve endings (nociceptive) either by chemical or mechanical means. This commonly occurs through injury and its purpose is to inform us of tissue damage.
The causes of musculoskeletal pain are varied. Muscle tissue can be damaged with the wear and tear of daily activities. Trauma to an area (jerking movements, accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle) also can cause musculoskeletal pain. Other causes of pain include postural strain, repetitive movements, overuse, and prolonged immobilisation. Changes in posture or poor body mechanics may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening, therefore causing other muscles to be misused and become painful.
Types of Pain
Acute Pain is defined as pain lasting less than 3 to 6 months, or pain that is directly related to tissue damage.
Chronic Pain there are at least two different types of chronic pain problems – chronic pain due to an identifiable pain generator (e.g. an injury), and chronic pain with no identifiable pain generator (e.g. the injury has healed).
Referred Pain is pain perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus/ origin.
How is musculoskeletal pain treated?
Musculoskeletal pain is best treated by addressing the cause. This will vary depending on whether you are experiencing bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, or joint pain, or some other kind of musculoskeletal pain.
Where Physiotherapy may help
- Education about the pain processes
- Using a splint to immobilise the affected joint and allow healing
- Using heat or cold
- Dry Needling
- Biofeedback techniques
- Ultrasound or interferential modalities
- Mobilisation, trigger point therapy
- Therapeutic massage
- Advice and education about how and which exercises can help
- Strengthening and conditioning exercises
- Stretching exercises
- Graded exercise programs – slowly increase exercise tolerance
- Pain coping strategies so that you have effective tools to manage episodes of pain
- Re-education of normal posture and movement patterns
- Workplace assessment and addressing ergonomic factors
- Address movement behaviours that you may have developed that are not helpful
- Liaison with GPs, psychologists and specialists where required
Understanding pain, what type of pain it is and where it is coming from, is crucial to a positive treatment outcome. Physiotherapists are specifically trained in diagnosing injury and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.
If you have pain that is not going away and or getting worse-see your physiotherapist.
Stretch of the Month
Upper Back Stretch
- Seated or standing, stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other.
- Cross the arms so that the palms are pressed together, contract the abs and round the back, reaching away as you relax the head.
- Don’t collapse but instead imagine you’re curving up and over an imaginary ball.
Your posture, how you align your body and use your muscles to keep you in certain positions, is an important consideration in every activity you do including sitting, standing and sleeping. Good posture maximises your respiratory capacity, allowing other systems, including your digestive and circulatory systems, to work effectively. As you move throughout your day, think about how you are holding your body.