In the US, it is estimated that over a fifth of the adult population suffers from chronic pain.
Besides causing ongoing discomfort, chronic pain can significantly decrease your quality of life, increase the risk of other mental and physical disorders, and cause you to deal with astronomical healthcare costs.
As it progresses, chronic pain can become so disabling as to prevent you from moving your body as you should, remaining functional in your daily life, and carrying on with your current job.
Fortunately, thanks to advances in pain management, you no longer have to live with the loss of movement, disability, and distress that chronic pain can cause. With the non-surgical and non-drug protocol pioneered by Neuragenex – Neurofunctional Pain Management – you can address the root cause of your condition, regain your mobility and independence, and live pain-free. Let’s discover how in the guide below.
How Severe Chronic Pain Leads To Loss Of Movement In The Lower Body
Conditions that cause chronic pain can cause severe damage to important components of the joints, thus limiting your ability to move freely.
For example, in patients with arthritis, the sustained high levels of inflammation degrade the joint’s cartilage, thus leaving the bones exposed to friction and shock damage. Over time, degenerative disorders change the body’s mechanics, which can impact your ability to move your lower body.
But the relationship between chronic pain and movement also has a psychological factor. According to a 2022 study, when people expect or experience pain when moving, they move differently or avoid movement altogether, thus leading to a significant movement deficit. In some patients, this condition can degenerate into a disorder known as pain-related movement dysfunction (PRMD), which can persist long after the pain is gone.
While chronic pain influences movement, the opposite is also true: not enough movement can aggravate your chronic pain. Although you may avoid movement to prevent painful sensations, a sedentary lifestyle can cause your muscles to shrink and lose mass, and it can expose you to complications like diabetes and obesity. All of these comorbidities can aggravate your pain condition, intensify painful sensations, and lead to a further loss of movement.
It is important to note that loss of movement isn’t the same as paralysis. A decline in movement can be caused by a pain condition when nearby nerves or other structures are damaged, or when you experience pain so intense that it can cause you to avoid movement.
On the other hand, paralysis is a neurological condition that arises from damage to the brain or spinal cord. It causes the loss of the ability to move part or all of your body and affects around 1.7% of the US population. When paralysis affects the lower limbs, it is called paraplegia. Paraplegia may be temporary or permanent depending on its cause and often represents a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, including neurological damage.
Another neurological disorder that leads to inhibited movement is ataxia, which causes coordination impairment and loss of muscle control. It develops due to conditions that damage the area of the brain responsible for coordinating movement (the cerebellum). For people with ataxia, simply picking up an object from the ground can be extremely challenging.
Understanding the difference between paraplegia and loss of movement caused by chronic pain can help you take the necessary steps toward finding the right treatment program for your needs.
Conditions Associated With An Inability To Move
Persistent pain conditions affect over 116 million adults just in the US. The symptoms and causes of these conditions may vary, but they all tend to have a common denominator: they lead to a reduced ability to move.
In some cases, this loss of movement is caused by mechanical problems and traumatic injuries. However, often, people with these conditions simply move less because of the fear of experiencing movement-evoked pain.
Below, we’ll look at common conditions that may lead to a decline in your ability to move your limbs or coordinate the movements of your lower body.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions worldwide and, just in the US, it accounts for over 31 million visits to primary and specialist care clinics. But even though low back pain is so widespread, it should not be considered a normal part of life – and, certainly, it should not remain unaddressed.
Low back pain can be caused by severe conditions such as herniated discs, compression fractures, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, and facet joint damage as well as overuse and poor posture. If left untreated, low back pain can result in complications such as:
- Mobility impairment affecting the lumbar, thoracic, and sacroiliac regions of the spine
- Pain that radiates from the lower back into the legs
- Mobility deficit of several joints
- Inability to coordinate movements
With over 40% of people experiencing sciatica at least once in their lifetime, this condition is one of the most common causes of back pain. Sciatica is caused by a pinched nerve in the lower back and can lead to intense chronic pain radiating from the back to the hips and legs.
The painful sensations, which are described as sharp or stabbing, usually affect only one side of the body and intensify after periods of sitting or when sneezing. Sciatica can be treated with non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive therapies, used alongside stretching, exercise, and rest.
Sciatica can also cause leg numbness and weakness, which can result in a temporary loss of movement. This is because the pinched nerve may interfere with the normal transmission of motor and sensory signals from your legs to the spinal cord and the brain.
You should seek emergency care if you experience symptoms such as sudden intense pain in your leg combined with severe weakness and loss of bowel or bladder control. These are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, a severe disorder that develops when several nerve roots in the lumbar and sacral regions of the spine are compressed or damaged. Cauda equina syndrome is considered a neurosurgical emergency that requires immediate surgery to prevent permanent neurological dysfunction.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, an inflammatory condition that causes the degeneration of the soft cushioning between a joint’s bone (cartilage). As the cartilage wears down, the bones meeting at a joint are no longer protected from shock and friction damage. Over time, this condition can lead to mechanical issues and cause damage to surrounding components, such as ligaments and tendons.
Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that often arises due to age-related joint degeneration, overuse, excessive stress to the joint, and mechanical issues.
Without treatment, osteoarthritis can cause a decline in your ability to move. Some key symptoms of the disablement process caused by osteoarthritis include decreased walking speed, chronic low back or knee pain, and limited flexibility.
Osteoporosis is known as “the silent disease”, because it can go undetected and without causing symptoms for years. Osteoporosis occurs when the bones lose mass and density. When this happens, the holes or gaps in the bone’s internal honeycomb-like structure increase in size, causing the bones to become fragile and prone to fractures.
People with osteoporosis often receive an accurate diagnosis – and start to seek treatment – only when minor bumps or motions like coughing result in a fracture. Among the complications that osteoporosis can cause, this condition also leads to movement problems.
Firstly, fractures can lead to periods of immobilization, especially when they affect the spine, ribs, pelvis, and hips. Additionally, with time, osteoporosis can impact your posture and lead to changes in the curvature of the spine, which can significantly inhibit your ability to remain flexible and move your limbs freely.
The spine is composed of 33 vertebrae and, between each of these flexible bones, is an intervertebral disc. Each of these discs is made of two parts: an outer ring of stronger cartilage and an inner gel-like core.
The outer ring of this “donut” is flexible and resilient, and can easily accommodate the spine’s movements. However, due to age-related degeneration, injury, overuse, poor spine mechanics, and excessive stress, the outer wall of the intervertebral disc can become weaker and less supple. This leads to conditions like slipped discs, disc tears, and herniated discs, which occur when the gel-like substance at the core of the disc starts to protrude from the spinal column.
Besides causing pain, herniated discs can start impacting your ability to move your lower body. This happens when the slipped disc irritates and compresses the nerve roots nearby, interfering with the normal signaling of motor and sensory signals. Some symptoms you may experience if you have a herniated disc include pain and numbness (usually down your leg), muscle weakness, and tingling or burning sensations.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord lesions are sometimes the culprit behind back pain and loss of movement. A spinal lesion is a cancerous or noncancerous tumor or the abnormal growth of tissue that occurs in or around the spinal cord.
As the tumor develops, it can begin to press on and irritate the nerves in the spinal column, thus preventing signals relating to motor instructions from traveling between your limbs and the brain. This complication results in lower body weakness, tingling sensations, and numbness.
Other non-traumatic injuries in the spine that can affect the functioning of the nerve roots in the spinal cord may be caused by arthritis, aging, inflammation, infection, or disc degeneration. Traumatic spinal injuries – such as a broken spine or neck – can lead to paralysis and paraplegia.
Affecting over 2.8 million people worldwide, multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological disorder. MS occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the myelin, which is the nerves’ outer protective sheath. The nerves often affected by MS are the ones belonging to the central nervous system, so the ones in the brain and spinal cord.
Although the nature and intensity of the symptoms of MS vary from one person to another, this condition is commonly associated with the signs of nerve damage, such as muscle weakness, muscle spasticity, tremors, difficulty walking, and chronic pain.
Muscular dystrophy is the medical term for a group of inherited disorders caused by genetic mutations. The abnormal genes prevent the body from producing the proteins necessary for forming and maintaining healthy muscles.
Patients with muscular dystrophy Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Becker muscular dystrophy suffer from a progressive loss of muscle mass, weakness, frequent falls, unsteady gait, muscle pain, learning disabilities, and delayed growth. Over time, these conditions can lead to increased levels of disability and affect every aspect of a person’s life.
While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, several lines of treatment can be used to slow down the progression of this disease and help patients manage their symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury can have a devastating effect on the central nervous system and sever the nerve connection between the brain and the different parts of the body. If you have broken your neck or experienced severe head trauma, your brain may no longer be able to receive nerve signals relating to motion, which results in loss of movement, impaired coordination, and reduced muscle control.
Depending on what area of the brain is affected by trauma, you may experience a range of muscle movement disorders, including muscle weakness, paralysis, tremors, loss of balance, uncontrollable twitching, spasms, and motor impairments like dystonia and apraxia.
A specialized neurologist will help you obtain an accurate diagnosis and an adequate line of treatment for your condition.
Relieve Painful Symptoms From These Conditions With Neuragenex
What You Can Quickly Do At Home When It’s Too Painful To Move
If your loss of movement is connected to a persistent pain condition such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, or a pinched nerve, some home remedies can help. With the help of a loved one or caregiver, you can use the following treatments to ease pain and move enough to carry on with your daily routine.
- Rest: Rest, often accompanied by splinting, can be used to ease pain conditions caused by overuse, injury, or excessive stress. For example, if you have a pinched nerve, rest from activities that may aggravate the compression can help restore the functionalities of your nerves and regain sensory and movement functions.
- Ice: Ice can be used to address the symptoms of inflammation, but it is mostly recommended to treat acute or recent injuries. Applying ice will slow down the circulation of blood around the injured area, which reduces swelling, heating, and redness. This action can help you restore some of your movement capabilities.
- Temporary Pain Reliever: Pain relievers such as over-the-counter medications can temporarily ease pain, especially during flare-ups.
Other alternative remedies, such as acupuncture and massage therapy, have been seen to be effective in easing painful sensations, stimulating the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), and improving range of motion.
Why Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Low back pain, pinched nerves, and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis are extremely common disorders. If your loss of movement or sensation in the lower body is gradual and caused by any of these conditions, it is important to find a treatment plan that aims to target the underlying cause of your symptoms.
However, you should seek immediate medical attention if your loss of movement is sudden or severe, and it is accompanied by symptoms such as loss of bladder and bowel control, trouble speaking, vision loss, severe headaches, problems with balance, and trouble walking.
These symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from severe conditions such as a stroke or paralysis. Early detection can help you prevent permanent loss of movement, brain damage, or disability – and, in some cases, getting emergency care can even save your life.
Diagnostic Procedures For Movement Loss
If you experience loss of movement in your lower body, it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis and identify the cause of your pain condition. Today, according to the NIH, the incidence of new chronic pain cases is higher than other chronic conditions, such as depression, diabetes, and hypertension. The same study also shows that in 61% of cases chronic pain lasts longer than a year, and that in 19% of cases chronic pain develops into high-impact chronic pain (HICP), which leads to disability.
To diagnose what’s causing the condition at the source of your loss of movement, your healthcare provider may employ a range of diagnostic tools, including:
- A review of your medical history
- A comprehensive physical exam
- An assessment of your symptoms
- Imaging tests such as MRIs and X-rays
- Bone scans and bone density tests
- Complete blood work
- Nerve conductivity tests
- Neurological exams
These tests can also highlight the presence of anomalies that may be pressing on your spine and resulting in chronic pain, such as tumors.
Conventional Medical Treatments
As seen above, loss of movement in your lower body may be just a symptom of a severe underlying pain condition. That’s why, to help you restore your ability to move your legs, feet, and hips, your healthcare provider may recommend several lines of treatment that target the underlying cause of pain.
These treatments include:
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and prescription opioids are often considered the first line of treatment for chronic pain. While pharmaceutical therapies can help ease pain during flare-ups, it is important not to consider this a long-term strategy. Taking pain medications for months at a time can lead to severe side effects such as gastrointestinal ulcers, a propensity to heart attack and stroke, and addiction.
- Physical Therapy: If you are dealing with a degenerative condition like osteoporosis or you are recovering from an injury, physical therapy can improve muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination. Working with a therapist can also help you avoid falls and improve your range of motion.
- Chiropractic Adjustments: Through spinal manipulation, a chiropractor can help improve spinal motions and correct mechanical problems. During chiropractic treatments, a specialist will apply sudden but controlled force to a joint to restore its function. Chiropractic therapy may help with low back pain, pinched nerves, and joint pain, but it is not equally efficient for all patients.
- Osteopathic Manipulation: Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) works similarly to chiropractic adjustments, and they are used to address structural imbalances that are the source of pain. This form of treatment is not indicated for patients with osteoporosis.
- Steroid Injections: Steroids are the man-made version of hormones that are naturally found in the body. These hormones are responsible for calming down the immune system and, in turn, the inflammatory response. If you suffer from painful conditions like osteoarthritis, steroids can reduce swelling, redness, and pain for several weeks or months.
- Surgery: Surgery – such as knee or hip arthroplasty – is sometimes recommended when a pain condition or abnormal mechanics have damaged some of the joints’ components. For example, in osteoarthritis, bones that have been damaged by shock and friction no longer glide against one another when you move your leg, knee, or hip, leading to a severe and progressive loss of movement.
Although each of these treatments may be beneficial in the short term, it is important to keep in mind the side effects and drawbacks of each therapy, especially medications and surgery.
Looking beyond traditionally-prescribed therapies can help you find non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical treatments that actually work, such as Neurofunctional Pain Management. Let’s look at this treatment plan pioneered by Neuragenex below.
How Neurofunctional Pain Management Approaches Loss Of Movement
Unlike the lines of treatment seen above, Neurofunctional Pain Management addresses all of those health and lifestyle factors contributing to your pain condition and loss of movement. Aside from simply easing the pain and discomfort you are experiencing, the approach pioneered by Neuragenex targets the real cause of your pain and movement decline, thus helping you establish the foundations of long-term health.
Here are the three columns of the whole-person, non-drug, and non-invasive Neurofunctional Pain Management protocol.
Electroanalgesia is a pain management technique that uses high-pulse electrical current to ease pain, boost blood circulation, improve mobility, and induce...
IV nutritional therapy, or intravenous therapy, involves administering vital nutrients directly to the bloodstream through an IV. This type of treatment bypasses the digestive system, allowing for maximum absorption and utilization of nutrients by the...
Lifestyle counseling is an approach to managing chronic pain that involves identifying, assessing, and modifying lifestyle factors contributing to an individual's pain. For example, lifestyle factors such as nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep quality...
Don’t Lose Your Body Movement Completely
Loss of movement can be distressing at best and disabling at worst. So, if you are suffering from chronic pain that is inhibiting your ability to move, it is impossible to overestimate how impactful your disorder can be. However, relying on medications to remain independent in your daily life or living in fear of injuries, fractures, and surgery are no longer the two prospects in front of you.
Thanks to Neurofunctional Pain Management, Neuragenex can help you restore your body’s ability to move freely, ease the symptoms of a chronic condition, and ultimately magnify your quality of life.
Debilitating chronic pain in the lower back can be treatable.