Pain Concern
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For Zanna, advice please.

Hi Zanna, have found a reputable sports massage therapist and my appt is Tuesday evening. The treatment will be gentle but what I was wondering was, if muscles are relaxed as a result of the massage, could this be counterproductive in respect of say, spondylolisthesis, where the muscles are tight and sore of necessity, ie, they are working to support the spine. I'm not sure if this is one of your problems and would welcome your observations, if not your advice.

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Hi C,

I know you asked Z for her advice but I just thought I'd mention my experience as it might be helpful to you.. I have had a lot of massage and I think you are quite right in that muscle splinting does play a protective roll but the back is long and massage is brilliant to easing strains elsewhere... I had a massage once that relieved my splinting and had me on my knees! Oh dear! But nowadays I just mention to avoid a couple of segments. I also find that my body needs a kinder gentler form of massage than sports therapy now... Knowing, experienced hands can work miracles...:)

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Thanks B, I didn't mean for Z exclusively, any experience welcome. As it happens, I have the worlds worst cold and cough so have cancelled. Since the chronic pain, I never get colds! My immune system must now be grinding down!

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It's just horrible living with pain and battling away for solutions! Gah! And a summer virus too! Sorry to hear that C. Hope you feel better soon and when you rebook perhaps try the massage with magnesium oil as per our previous posting friend recommends... Might do that myself.

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I bought some this morning after visit to doc ( blood test for AS ). Have sprayed alreadyvand scoffed mega vit C with bioflavinoids! Thanks for good wishes. Means a lot to have support. X

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Hi Calceolaria,

All my alt therapists have said the same, and I'll try and explain with my problems.

Initially My lower spine was locked.Any movement in any direction was like hot pokers being stabbed into me. There was some flashing like an electric shock in the lumber as well. All the tiny muscles between the vertebrae were in spasm, to stabilise my damaged pelvis. It was ridgid and very sore. In order for these muscles to work properly, they need to be relaxed and the spine supported by other means. The process is long and can be very painful, but everyone is different.

What they said was in a healthy body, every cell in the body has a specific job to do. That is it's blueprint. When that cell dies it gets replaced with an identical one. With muscles (made of 1000's of cells) this is the relaxed state, and it knows to contract for the muscle to work, then relax again. Muscles work in pairs, one is relaxed andc one contracted to move a limb. With muscles permanently in spasm, one is over tight and its oposite is overly relaxed. Treatment rebalances them.

In someone with chronic pain and muscles in spasm, the blue print is re-written, so the normal state for the muscle is spasm. It will fight any corrective work to go back to the blueprint it knows, not the normal state one.

Physio treatment changes this back to the normal state of relaxed. But the body can react, it realises that it's blue print of being in spasm has changed, so it reverts back. The pain you get after treatment is because of the altered state of the muscle. The more treatment you get, the less of a reaction you get. But the reaction is important part of the healing process. You may also find that your limbs jump about at night as the nerves repair themselves. Again this is a normal process and usually short lived.

At the same time as peeling away the layers of muscle spasm causing pain, it needs to be supported with building up exercises. These will teach the body to use more appropriate muscles to support the spine. In my case, it was a routine I still have to do every day - mainly stretching to prevent the spasms. Some days I can stretch more than others but as long as there is an average amount of stretch then it's ok. If I'm going to do something I know my body won't like, then I do a few days of increased stretching before and after, to reduce/prevent the spasm setting in. At an apropriate point, I started pilates to strengthen my core, and this is what holds up my spine now, not my vertebrae muscles.

So in short, the "bad" muscle spasm has to be broken down before the muscle can be retaught the "good" action. There will be a short time of fragility and muscle weakness, and you may feel things are going backwards rather than forwards, but it is a very long process if done correctly, it involves work by the physio, but a huge amount by you continuing long after the physio.

Recovery time can be as long as the time you have had pain. I'll be honest and say that in the beginning with mine, my body was shutting down, I was a few months away from being in wheelchair permenantly. I didn't learn this until a year into various therapies.

Now, I do my stretching daily, pilates a couple of times a week, plan for events I know will upset my body, or accept the increased pain. My body although instable with all the skeletal damage is as fitter than it has ever been. I read my pain and just pay attention to the ones that are important. I body scan all the time to make sure my spine is in vertical alignment. It sounds like a lot of work but it's automatic now. ie carrying shopping - 2 bags of equal weight.

I still have pain, but I do lots of things during the day to keep it at bay. I do get despondent that it will always be there, that I will have to continue with the exercises for the rest of my life, but if thats what it takes to keep me on my feet and med free it's bearable. Hopefully when old age diseases appear I'll be better able to cope with them too, maybe prevent some.

The physio may well work on other areas of your body too, compensation pain likes to settle in loads of places. They tend to peel the pain away like an onion skin until they are left with the root, which by that time shouldn't be as bad as it originally was.

If things do get worse, and this is normal, don't give up, you will get passed that. For me, I realised one day I could bend down to put my socks on, something I hadn't done myself for about 3 years!

I really hope I haven't put you off, and I hope the physio can help loosen you up.

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Thanks for that comprehensive and helpful response Zanna ! I have tremendous admiration for your achievement and I know many of us on this site see you as one of the prime examples of success through alternative means, Johnsmith being another. You must have been able to place a great deal of trust in your therapist and I think that is where I tremble on the brink ! I will think hard on all you have said.

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