I had an interesting chat with a gentleman this morning who has been experiencing ongoing knee trouble for 18 months or so which is particularly problematic as it has stopped him from running which he loves. This man has seen a number of people that have told him that different things are the problem. He has had his feet looked at, he has had his knees looked at and done work to strengthen his glutes and core because he was told these were “weak”.
This is something that is very common. People are forever getting told that they need to strengthen their glutes and core because they are “weak”. In fact I was working with a powerlifter a few years ago who was suffering with a back injury and they were told by their Chiropractor that they had weak glutes and needed to strengthen them! This powerlifter had squatted 250kg+ a couple of weeks earlier in a competition. He certainly did not have weak glutes – and 9 out of 10 people who get told they have problems because they are weak DO NOT have problems because they are weak.
There are typically 2 reasons why a lot of problems get better when you strengthen certain areas of the body. The first is that increasing strength increases the bodies capacity to cope with physical stress – it literally makes you better at compensating for longer until you then exceed that capacity; and the second is that a lot of the muscle groups that are “weak” are muscles that tend towards inhibition – this means that due to their attachments they are in a biomechanical disadvantaged position in relation to muscles which they work with in tandem or in opposite to.
So what to do if strengthening isn’t the key?
So this runner had strengthened everything he had been told to and was back running OK, he had an improvement. But as soon as he upped his mileage and pace the exact same problem came back. Why? Because nothing had changed. The underlying problem that was causing the pain in the first place had never gone away – by increasing his strength he had just increased his capacity to cope or tolerance until he exceeded that and the pain returned.
This is the case with a lot of problems. People treat symptoms. Pain is a symptom. Pain does not tell you why something is hurting, it is just information. Now if strength had been this man’s problem his issue would not have returned, the fact that it has just shows that the underlying problem has not been identified and so he will likely continue to experience problems until the cause is identified and rectified.
This is a very typical pattern that people have experienced when they come to see me.
So how am I different? As I told this man this morning, whilst I am interested in his pain I am almost more interested in why that pain is there. He is obviously using his body in a way, and generating movement, in a way that is creating a problem which is manifesting as pain. I am less interested in strength and more interested in knowing if he is able to perform movement in an efficient way and use the strength that he has. This man can run miles, he is not weak either.
What happens is that over the course of our life time we experience bumps, falls, knocks, we have surgeries and so on. All of these accidents have the potential to cause us to compensate and change the way that we move. It is only by undoing and correcting these compensations that we can return to more efficient movement and when you restore someone’s ability to move efficiently pain tends to go away. Coincidence?
If you feel like you are not getting to the root of a problem that you are experiencing then get in contact with us to see if we can help you.