Monday, November 3, 2014

Pain is a Symptom, it is NOT Always the Cause of the Problem

By: Joel Luedke

Everyone has pain.  And whether is be from athletic related training and injuries or just general everyday life that causes it a common misconception in dealing with pain is that the pain is the only problem that needs to be fixed.  You want to resolve pain because of course it doesn't feel good and we want it gone but it is forgotten that PAIN is a symptom, not the injury and more often than not it isn't the root of the problem.

Gray Cook says "Patients with musculoskeletal problems often focus so much on pain relief, they fail to see the disparity between basic symptom management and true healing or resolution of a problem. In their distress, they mistake pain as the problem without understanding it is merely a signal, and that the problem may remain even after the signal is gone."  This is when we reach for the back of ice and pop the bottle of anti-inflammatories and give it a few days to hop it goes away.

Pain is a warning sign.  Long before pain represents a chronic problem, it can alert us to poor alignment, overuse, imbalance and inflammation.  Pain changes everything.  There is a trend of change coming across the sports medicine world about trying to address things that can cause pain before they reach that point.  When pain rears its ugly head it is getting to the tipping point of becoming to late to reverse the pattern of dysfunction or the problem without having to take time away from the activity that you are doing.

Take pain very seriously but do not be content with the just relieving it and thinking whatever problems it was related to is over.  Look to the surrounding areas of tissue that could be off or tight or overworked to relieve the tension that could be causing pain in your joints or other locations within the muscle.  Look at your position and posture.  Could it be better?  Come on we all can be better at this.

If you have headaches look at posture and the musculature around your neck and upper back.  Knee pain?  Look above and below for tight spots (especially the quads).

DON'T WAIT!!! A great analogy to getting to the root of the problem and addressing it before the point of no return is from Gary Reinl.  If it were to snow an inch an hour for twenty four hours on your deck you could go out every hour and sweep it off with a broom and put in a little effort.  Or you could wait twenty four hours and have two feet of snow to remove and risk it ruining your deck due to the weight and then you have reached a point of no return.  Moral: Take the time to work on everything you can before it accumulates.

One more analogy from Dr. Mark Hyman of the book "Ultraprevention".

His analogy was simple: "Our response to injury is like hearing the smoke detector go off and running to pull out the battery.  The pain, like the sound, is a warning of some other problem.  Icing a sore knee without examining the ankle or hip is like pulling the battery out of the smoke detector.  The relief is short-lived."

-Any questions about specific pain and maybe a couple or areas to start looking to fix yourself please use the contact box on the side and we'll pass on some starting points.