There are many different treatment strategies used to treat musculoskeletal issues. Joint manipulation, soft tissue therapy, ultrasound, motor nerve stimulation, exercise, kinesiology tape, etc… are all common treatment options used to help decrease musculoskeletal pain. This blog post will discuss why rehabilitation is important to the recovery of musculoskeletal pain syndromes.
Whenever we experience pain, the first objective is to alleviate the pain. All of the treatments mentioned above can be used to help decrease the pain, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Many treatment plans stop after the pain is under control, which is a common mistake. The problem is that we assume pain and tissue health are perfectly correlated (think about the pain of a paper cut compared to the size of the cut).
Once the pain is under control, there are two other things we should focus on: (1) correcting movement patterns and (2) increasing tissue tolerance.
It has been shown that pain will alter movement patterns. Altering movement patterns is a short-term protective strategy to allow the injured tissues to heal. These altered movement patterns are beneficial in the short-term, however, they can have long term consequences if the normal movement patterns aren’t restored. Unfortunately, the normal movement patterns aren’t always restored once the tissues have healed. This can cause overloading of other tissues and the development of pain.
The main treatment strategy to increasing tissue tolerance is by loading the tissues. There is a common fear that loading the tissues will cause damage to the tissues, however, no other treatment has been shown to increase tissue tolerance. The key is to gradually progress the load on the tissues so that loading is comfortable. The load doesn’t have to be heavy, just enough to give the tissues a reason to adapt. If a loading program isn’t included in the treatment strategy, the body won’t become more resilient to load. This could put you at risk for a re-injury when returning to sport.
You can read more about how loading can reduce injury risk here.
Pain management is obviously an important aspect of the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, however, rehabilitation should not be overshadowed. Rehabilitation can help correct movement patterns and increase tissue tolerance after an injury, which can aid in reducing the risk of re-injury. As always, if you need help with pain management or rehabilitation, seek out the help of a professional.