When we have pain, we focus on where it hurts. If your ankle hurts the reaction is to assume there is something wrong with the ankle that needs to be fixed. With chronic joint and muscle pain this is often not the case. The pain is a symptom of an asymmetry elsewhere in the body.
A joint can hurt without being damaged. The pain is because the joint is compensating for another part of the body that is not functioning correctly. Tom Myers, world renowned manual therapist, uses the analogy of victims and criminals to explain the pain relationships in the body. “The victim screams while the criminal is silent.” The ankle screams while the real offender doesn’t make a sound.
In the example of ankle pain, the possible perpetrators could be the hip, knee, spine or shoulder above. Dysfunctions in these joints can cause the ankle to overwork and hurt. The ankle pain could also be due to a criminal on the opposite side of the body such as an elevated hip or shoulder that distributes more weight onto the ankle.
Think about how you limp when one side of your body is injured. This imbalanced gait puts more weight on the opposite side. With repetition the uninjured side of the body may start to ache from the constant strain. This lopsided movement may be occurring to a lesser extent all the time without your knowledge. If this imbalanced patterns continues, joint damage will occur over time.
Modern medicine is symptom oriented, concentrating on relieving the pain, often without looking deeper to find out WHY the pain is occurring. Medical professionals have become very good at treating painful symptoms. Unfortunately, these dedicated healers often overlook or lack the time needed to investigate the cause of the pain. This leads to an unending cycle of symptoms and invasive procedures.
You’ve probably heard stories of people who have had multiple joints replaced or repeated back surgeries. Chronic pain and joint degeneration is caused by stress within the body. If the cause of this stress (e.g. imbalances and dysfunctions) is not addressed the stress will just be redirected to other joints and soft tissues.
After having three knee surgeries on the same knee I had surgery on the adjacent hip. These were the victims that were crying out from the pain being inflected by the dysfunction in the opposing hip and lower back. Not taking action to find and correct the cause of my knee pain the cycle continued impairing my hip to the point I was told a hip replacement would be necessary in the future. I am planning to avoid that fate as I correct my asymmetries and regain my function.
The next time you have pain, don’t assume it is being generated from the area that hurts. Tune in to your body, noticing disparities beyond the obvious discomfort to determine the cause. By uncovering and rectifying the cause of your pain you will stop chasing symptoms and regain a healthy, pain free body.
Find out how posture alignment therapy can help you uncover the cause of your pain. Free workshop at 5:30 pm. Friday, Jan. 17 at the Los Alamos Co+op. Call 505.412.3132 for more information.
Jessica Kisiel is local wellness professional specializing in injury recovery and pain management through posture alignment using the Egoscue Method®. Stay connected and receive free posture exercises for your favorite sport by signing up for her newsletter, http://www.thepfathlete.com/subscribe.