The twists and turns of pain.

Updated: Jan 21

That ankle injury you had as a child could be the cause of your knee pain today, that hip pain you have now, could lead to shoulder pain in the future.

Our bodies are amazing at adapting, when something goes wrong, they are brilliant at protecting the area (often through swelling) and slightly altering patterns to prevent causing further pain and injury to the area. Some of these patterns we may not even recognise, they may seem so minor to our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, they do not just magically jump back to their normal pattern when the danger has passed. Neurological and muscle memory is a powerful force that once it establishes a pattern, it takes effort and instruction to change.  

When we sprain our right ankle for example (an example I know well), the ankle swells up making the area immobile, this prevents further damage and promotes healing, it also makes it painful and difficult to walk on (to ensure you rest it). When we try to walk on the immobile, stiff ankle we struggle and the lack of movement through the ankle and foot is felt up the chain.

In order to walk then, we have to shift our weight onto the left foot, and rotate our right foot laterally (outwardly) so that we don’t have to fully push through the foot, in this position our hips may then shift to keep the weight on the left foot and rotate to the right, to help us walk without requiring the full movement of that right foot and without needing to push off from the big toe and ball of the right foot.

The glutes then are made redundant by this shift and rotation, especially the right glute as we shift our weight further into the left hip and lean our torso down to the right hand side to help create the force that we have lost from the lack of push off from the foot. The left shoulder will also come into play here to assist in the extra momentum required, shifting forward as we try and swing the right leg through.

That’s a lot of change to your usual movement patterns - and it’s not the end!

Now with the torso tilting to the right and the left shoulder shifting forward, we can probably expect a little rotation of the torso too, but the body will aim to have eyes centred and level at all costs. This puts a lot of pressure on the muscles around our necks which as one of their major roles is to need to keep the eyes and ears level.

When you start to recover you will start to walk a bit closer to normal, but you will now have developed a new habit. The neural messages that your brain sends to your body have changed, the pathway you used to use has been abandoned like a road that hasn’t seen a car in decades.

Because of this change in neural pathways, some muscles will become more dominant than others. For example your right glute will be weaker than your left and your core may not be turning on as it should due to that rotation which is causing your obliques (the lager superficial muscle groups) to take over. Unless you work to redress the balance your living a habit that is getting harder and harder to break.

This isn’t unique to the ankle sprain, toe, knee, shoulder, neck injuries and more will also have a knock on effect up and down the body and the pattern can differ from person to person, injury to injury.

At Muscle Medicine our aim is to identify the patterns you are living with, which could come from childhood or from more recent injuries. Getting you to be aware of these changes and understand your body is the ideal place to start the pattern correction.  We will talk you through the treatment, discuss movement and postural exercises with the aim of improving your movement to decrease pain and further complications.