Persistent niggles and nagging injuries can be extremely frustrating, but they’re a reality for those of us who push our physical limits every day in the gym.
Besides the pain and discomfort, there’s the obvious frustration of having to take a break from training while you either receive medical treatment, or wait for the body to repair itself.
“But if your body has an innate healing ability, you may ask yourself why niggles persist and often return weeks, months or even years after overcoming the initial injury,” says Sean Johnson, owner and principal at The Centre for Structural Medicine, which is located in the northwest of Johannesburg.
Cause vs symptoms
“How is it that rehab practitioners can get to the bottom of your medical aid funds so quickly, but are slow to get to the bottom of the actual cause of the injury?”
The answer is simple, he suggests. “They’re possibly looking in the wrong place, and treating the symptoms without resolving the root cause of your injury.”
Sean explains that during any activity your body operates as a series of kinetic chains that function holistically in perfect unison. “Why then, if your body functions holistically, are injuries treated in isolation? Why is the focus on the site of pain when often the pain is only symptomatic and not causal?”
Take, for instance, knee pain, which is a common complaint, especially among runners, cyclists and those who lift weights seriously. “The knee is a joint with an incredibly high number of fascial connections to other parts of the body, but none more so than with the pelvis. In my clinic, when people complain about their knees I immediately look for pelvic instability or dysfunction,” explains Sean.
Tension states in any of the muscles that share attachments with the pelvis and knee can affect the functioning of the joint and, in turn, be the root cause of knee pain. Even tension states in the glutes, hamstrings, quads and ‘locked’ sacroilliac joints can all lead to pelvic dysfunction, which, in turn, can lead to knee and ankle issues; even shin splints.
The above principles can be applied to just about any injury, states Sean. “So, if you’ve picked up pesky ITB syndrome while running or damaged a shoulder while weight training, and you can’t seem to shake the injury, then maybe you haven’t gotten down to the root cause of the injury.”
Often the presenting symptoms are not the main area of concern. “So, to effectively, and permanently, recover from injuries you have to look past what the body is showing you and try and understand the injury within context,” he concludes.
Ultimately, treating the cause of an injury, not the symptoms, will help you recover quicker, and permanently.