A Hidden Cause of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Normal tissue under a microscope
Scarred tissue under a microscope

While it takes little effort to pick out someone with back pain on the street, finding out the cause of their pain can befuddle even the most competent therapists and doctors. Long time sufferers of musculoskeletal pain know the drill of being referred for increasingly complex scans only to leave with unremarkable results, like “degenerative changes” in the lumbar spine. Invisible to the eye and hidden even from the biggest MRIs, a growing body of research has identified microscopic scars as a big reason behind chronic pain and injuries. These scars develop during incomplete healing processes after injury or from disuse, leading to changes in body awareness, pain and a constant stretching of tissues that chronic pain sufferers know all too well. If the tissues are stretched for too long, re-injury occurs or a new one can develop at a more distant site from the original injury. Unlike death or taxes however, the process is reversible. Physiotherapy can provide the zap needed to stimulate tissue remodeling with the right strength and direction.

Bordoni, B., & Zanier, E. (2014). Skin, fascias, and scars: symptoms and systemic connections. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 7, 11–24.

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