Why Your Pain Doesn’t Always Reflect the Problem

I treat the area where I'm feeling pain, why doesn't it help? - Humberto Hurtin

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When one area of the body isn’t pulling its weight—whether that’s due to a chronic injury, muscle weaknesses, or another factor—stress is inevitably shifted to a different structure. Human beings are incredibly resilient and can tolerate a high level of variability, but when we push ourselves to extremes (like training for tri!) we can exceed our thresholds.

So while painful conditions certainly need to be addressed directly, it’s often not enough. In order to successfully come back from injury, we must assess and address body parts above and below the offending region. In fact, the injury may be caused by something that seems unrelated to the painful area.

For example: Knee pain can be caused by multiple problem areas. Weakness of the gluteal musculature can alter landing strategies and may contribute to patellofemoral pain syndrome (also known as “runner’s knee”) outside or under the kneecap. Stiff ankles are linked to the development of patellar tendon issues (also known as “jumper’s knee”) that manifest just below the kneecap.

This means we should be wary of tunnel vision when training and rehabbing. There is value in using variable methods to condition the entire body in a structured fashion—this is why we do plyos, strength training, and other injury-proofing exercises alongside simply swimming, biking, and running. This all-encompassing approach helps to ensure no stones are unturned and we are not prematurely limiting our athletic potential or increasing probability of injury.

So, if you’re dealing with pain that isn’t getting better, despite your best Dr. Google e orts, get it checked out by a professional. The relationships in our bodies can be unintuitive and may require an additional set of trained eyes.

Jason Eure is a physical therapist at PT Solutions in Vienna, Virginia. HeisalsoaUSA weightlifting performance coach who designs and oversees the dry-land training for the Machine Performance Center.

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