When a pain starts suddenly and the person wasn’t doing anything strenuous or unusual, they are usually left wondering why – there was no accident or injury. The pain doesn’t make sense.
My job is to help heal the pain and also figure out what might have caused it so that we can prevent it from happening again. Let’s look at a few of the possibilities that contribute to pain.
When there is no specific trauma or injury, the most common cause of pain is very small stresses that accumulate over time. The body is great at compensating for these minor stresses so you don’t even realize that something is wrong. Tiny amounts of damage occur over an extended period of time and then something equally small and barely noticeable pushes the body over the edge and into sudden pain.
For example, shoulder impingement is far more common in office workers than any type of athlete. Desk and computer work causes tightness of the neck, shoulder and upper chest muscles. That slouched-over-a-keyboard posture stiffens the mid and upper back. These changes alter the alignment of the shoulder, pulling it forward, which narrows the room available for the muscles to do their thing. Anytime the arm is used – reaching for the phone, the printer, a file – the shoulder muscles and tendons scrape against bone and slowly become frayed or torn. Eventually enough damage will accumulate and sudden pain may develop.
This same process can occur anywhere in the body where there are tight muscles, weak muscles and stiff joints accompanied by poor posture and repetitive movements. The hips, lower back and neck accumulate damage from stress on a daily basis simply due to the conveniences of our modern lives – computer, cars, tablets and gym equipment all make good posture difficult and promote repetitive movements.
How do you protect yourself from these types of injuries? First of all, get plenty of movement during the day and when you exercise focus on routines that move your entire body – yoga, Pilates and swimming are all excellent. Secondly, practice good posture – it’s easy for me to say that, but it definitely takes diligence and awareness to maintain it. Finally, fill your diet with quality, whole foods – lean meats, fruits and vegetables with very few processed or fast foods (no more than once a month).
Quality food reduces the inflammation in your body and will give you the building blocks to heal when minor stresses cause tiny amounts of damage.
Practice these little things each day to prevent little injuries from accumulating into big pain. But when you do develop pain – call me immediately! Proper treatment reduces healing time and ensures complete healing.