Pain and Compensation Patterns

Art Kent


No one has to tell you when you’re in pain; You know it, it hurts, aches, burns and causes mobility issues. A pain in the ribs can keep you from taking a deep breath, from bending over, twisting and lifting. A pain in the hip makes walking rolling and sitting a problem. Hand pain makes it hard to grasp, knee pain makes it hard to walk, foot pain hard to stand, and so on and so on… Pain sends singles to the brain that causes the nervous system to cause our bodies to prevent or minimize the pain. In order to minimize the pain you may shorten your walking stride if the pain is in the hip, or it may reduce the swing of the arm if the pain is in the shoulder. You notice these new movement patterns immediately when you injure yourself. After an injury occurs these new movement abnormalities are thought to be short term and “everything will return to normal” when the pain subsides or healing occurs. In many cases this is true. But what happens when the pain is long term and a pattern of movement becomes normal? A shortened gate pattern on one side, an arm and shoulder that do not move or swing when walking or a chest that does not allow for a full breath will affect the whole body. These long term restricted movements do not just affect the muscles or region near the pain, but create lines of torsion and tightening that result in changes throughout the body.

Let’s say you sp sprained ankle. There will be pain at the sight of injury but due to how the body compensates to avoid pain, other areas will also become painful. In order to avoid putting weight in the injured ankle you will shorten your stride and favor the non-injured leg. This causes strain and over use of muscles on the “good” side and as the pain signals continue to protect the injury, the compensation pattern also continues. Over time as fatigue sets in, the uninjured leg will begin to develop its own method of coping with the new gate and fatigue issue. The quadriceps and gluts have had to work overtime on the uninjured leg; they now will require the help of other muscle groups to assist them. The lower leg muscles are below and will do little to help relive the fatigue. The help for this issue will need to come from above and I’m referring to angelic intervention. It will be the hip and low back muscles that will recruit and lift the leg in order for the body to remain mobile. The psoas is a muscle that lies along the anterior (front) spine and attaches to the femur (leg bone). The Psoas is a muscle that flexes (lifts) the leg and supports the lower spine. So when the psoas becomes overworked and fatigued, Low back pain sets in. Time passes and the ankle heals but the new dynamics in the body continue because it is now dealing with the back pain. Although the ankle has healed the ispilateral quadriceps has recovered from the fatigue and the Psoas continues to pick up the slack. Low back pain now seems constant. The low back pain caused by the Psoas is now causing its own mobility restrictions. Lifting, twisting, and even sitting is painful. Advil helps but not a cure. Rest helps but things still need to get done.

Over time the body develops a new pattern and we will no longer associate this new pain to the sprained ankle. “It’s just been there for a while” and now we deal with it. We move less; lift less weight, anything to avoid the pain. Pop Advil and other over the counter pain meds to deal with it until we can get back to “normal”?

What can we do? We need to get movement back to the area sooner than later. Gentle movements that do not cause pain and send singles back to the brain saying “it’s ok down here” is a place to begin. Yoga Therapy is a great way to get this movement into the body. Yoga Therapy is gentle guided movements directed to relive the area that is hyper sensitive restoring “normalcy” to the body. Acupuncture can calm the nerve signals and lessen the pain returning mobility back to the body. As mobility returns, the body begins to heal on its own. Massage is another great therapy for pain. Massage calms the nerves and relaxes the entire region. Mayo- fascial work is a very good approach to work on this type of pain. Mayo-fascial is a massage technique that targets the tissue that is tight or restricted. These lines of tightness may go in any direction from the source of pain but often times will lead the practitioner to the original source of the pain, in this case the ankle. Mayo-fascial work follows the lines of fascia restoring length and movement to the entire body.

So the pain you feel may have an origin that occurred due to compensation from another injury or incident. That knowledge does little to lessen the pain. But there is help out there. In fact, the therapies mentioned above are right here at the Sastun Center.


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