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Ladder of Pain Care

When it comes to treating injuries and issues with pain, most people limit their options in search for a quick fix. The only options they consider are pain medicine and surgery and that is it. The problem with narrowing to these two options is that neither fix the underlying issue and both can have terrible consequences.

Pain meds of course can turn to dependency and addiction. Surgery has its own risks plus the cuts the surgeon makes can't be reversed and the material that is removed can't go back in the body. Often times these are the very muscles, tendons, and tissue that your body needs to stop the pain.

The reason people are looking for the quick fix is because what is really needed is rest, stretching, and strengthening. All these things take time and work which most people don't want to do. But for those willing to put in the work, the path to healing pain issues can be less costly and can heal the body better than pain meds or surgery.

Think of addressing pain issues like a ladder of care. You want to work your way up the ladder from less aggressive to more aggressive procedures. Don't skip a ladder rung because it means you often can't go back and you'll never know if that rung that was skipped may have actually worked.

Here are the Ladder of Care options:
  • Rest - often times your body is just overworked and good old rest will do the trick.
  • Over the counter pain meds - start with Advil or Tylenol before going to the doctor for prescription pain meds. 
  • Change Your Diet - sometimes pain is caused from inflammation in the foods and diets we eat. Try reducing your meat intake and other foods that cause inflammation. Increase your intake of foods with anti-inflammatory properties like fish oil, tumeric, nuts, and vegetables. And drink more water to improve hydration and circulation. 
  • Stretching and Strengthening - do research about the part of the body that hurts. Learn the muscles and tendons that connect to those areas and learn how to stretch and strengthen those areas. The pain could be improved simply by doing that.
  • Massage and Acupuncture - often times those muscles need help to relax and massage and acupuncture can help.
  • Physical Therapy - this combines stretching, strengthening, and massage in one qualified professional. They can teach you specific exercises to address the pain.
  • Chiropractor - be sure to do your research, but good chiropractors can manipulate your joints and muscles to help with mobility and to reduce the pain.
  • More aggressive pain meds - this may be the point to go to the doctor and try prescription pain meds and shots to reduce the inflammation and help the muscles relax. Just know that there are risks of addiction and the shots may weaken the very areas that you are trying to heal.
  • Platelets and Stem Cells - this is also another area to do your research, but the science behind it is incredible. The best places use your own platelets and stem cells harvested from your blood and bone marrow, and have technology to guide the needles directly where they need to go. These platelets and stem cells then go to work to heal the areas in a natural, non-surgical way.
  • Minor surgery - try the least invasive options possible. Make sure you know what the surgeon will cut and what they will remove or add. The goal is to make sure as little skin, muscles, and tendons are cut and as little tissue is removed as possible.
  • Major surgery - things like hip and knee replacement really need to be considered carefully. To be successful with these types of surgeries often requires the same amount of work and strengthening that many people are trying to avoid. So know that this may not give you the results you are looking for if you haven't already put in the work in the other ladder rungs (particularly strengthening, stretching, and physical therapy).
I actually have first hand experience with this. When I was 25, I ruptured a disk in my back. I tried rest, massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy, but it didn't work. So I went to the surgery option after 12 weeks of being in excruciating pain. Now knowing what I know, there were still a few more rungs and a few more exercises I could have tried before surgery. The good news is the surgery was a success and I am able to do most everything even 15 years later. But I still battle with low back pain and know it is because of the muscles and tissue being compromised from the surgery.