One of the biggest challenges that you face when looking to get your pain and injuries corrected is this issue: the part that hurts is not necessarily where all of your treatments should be focussed.
A common scenario is persistent lower back pain.
Have you ever had a painful lower back and/or sciatica, been to see your chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist and felt improvements after the session? The pain was less, the muscles were looser, it felt like progress was being made.
But, some hours to days later you found yourself back at square one with the same pain returned.
There is a very simple mechanical explanation for this.
The part of you that’s screaming out in pain is not the same part of your body that set up the conditions for the pain to begin in the first place.
In other words, chronic pain is usually a red-herring.
To understand this you need to appreciate something quite incredible about how your body works as a machine.
The human body is a single, synchronous functioning unit.
This means that all of your bones (and soft tissues), from head to toe, work together as one system.
Practically speaking, this means that if you change your ankle alignment, the bones in your neck are also affected.
A Simple Experiment
Here. Try this quick little self-experiment to see this amazing principle of human mechanics experienced in real-time.
- Sit comfortably in a chair.
- Turn your head all the way to the left, and then all the way to the right. Notice how it feels and how far it turns.
- Now, clench the toes of your feet as hard as you can. Keep them clenched and turn your head both ways. How far does it turn now?
- Relax your feet and now clench your fists as hard as you can and test your neck movement again. How far does it turn now?
What you will notice is one of two things. You can either turn your head further or turn it less with your hand and/or feet clenched.
The exact results depend upon how the clenching of your feet tightens the joints of your pelvis and whether that leaves you more stable (better compensated with your misalignments) or less stable (less compensated with your misalignments) throughout your whole body.
Either way, what you are learning about your body is that everything is interconnected. If you change one end of it, you immediately affect the other end.
This is really important to know when it comes to fixing chronic pain and injuries, like back pain, neck pain, sciatica and headaches.
Typically, when you see a practitioner for back pain, they will rub, manipulate, stretch and plug into electrics the part that’s hurting. (Here’s your lower back massage, side-lying lower back manipulations, glutes stretches and muscle stimulation or laser machines).
It’s interesting to note that this is considered best practice, evidence-based practice, so I am not knocking it.
But it’s important to know that it’s not the whole story and treating only the part that hurts, whilst it may be considered to be ‘best practice’ does not correct the mechanical problem that set the pain up to begin with.
Here’s the main reason.
Body structures become, tight, stooped, painful and injured for one simple reason:
BONES GO OUT OF ALIGNMENT IN A DIRECTION THAT YOUR BODY HAS NO MUSCLES PULLING IN THE DIRECTION NEEDED TO SELF-CORRECT IT.
In your spine, this means forwards.
So when a vertebra gets stuck forwards, that’s it. Nothing other than an outside intervention will correct it back to optimal alignment.
When you get this sort of misalignment it throws your body off of balance.
In order to restore balance, your bones above and below will twist (winding your structure up like a rubber band) to lock you up in a compensation pattern that takes the pressure away from the injured bone, thus keeping you stable.
Just like in the experiment above, the forces travel throughout your whole skeleton creating some interesting effects.
From a mechanical point of view, the pain is nearly always at the high point of the compensation stress, where your body is most locked up. This is where you’ll get muscle pain, joint pain, nerves impingements, and over time, degenerated discs and joints.
The problem that set up this compensation tension is often far removed from the point of pain.
For example, the lower back will often twist and lock up in a compensation response to vertebrae in your lower neck and upper back that have become stuck forwards (thanks to previous traumas, accidents and injuries.)
A common scenario is for the upper and lower neck vertebrae to be chronically stuck forwards. Sometimes this even leads to local swelling and the obvious dowager’s hump.
If you suffer from chronic lower back pain or sciatica that is not responding to traditional treatment, then take a picture of your neck from the side. You may well notice that you have the classic chicken neck, or if it has progressed far enough, even a dowagers hump forming.
If these mechanical problems remain uncorrected it is likely that your back will continue to be problematic in some way, regardless of what therapy is performed directly upon it (this goes for steroid injections and surgery too).
It works the other way around too, shoulder and neck problems are often set up by lost alignment (and mechanical leverage) of the lower backbones.
Pain can be a red herring that leads you down the path of trying to work directly on the bit that hurts.
This is nearly always an ineffective approach.
The best long-term fixes come from addressing the skeleton in its entirety and fixing the primary mechanical injuries which the body cannot correct for itself.
Your whole structural system needs to be put back into balance.
When this is accomplished your body can let go of its compensatory twists, the tension comes out of your joints, your body will get back into balance and the pain can at last resolve.
At Spinecentral our approach is to balance the whole body with a leading-edge approach known as Structural Correction.
If you have been experiencing chronic pain that does not shift with treatment, it is possible that there is more going on with your back than first appears.
Give us a call to arrange a full Biostrcutural Assessment, that’s the first step towards recovering your structural health and finally ending problems like chronic back pain, chronic injuries and poor posture.