Why do we get a gradual onset of pain?
The vast majority of musculoskeletal pain is through cumulative trauma.
In simple terms, the stress we put on our joints by repeating movements multiple times a day in a specific direction; or from sustaining a posture that is not ideal. Let’s face it… we tend to sit at the same end of the sofa, watching television at the same angle.
At work, our telephone is constantly at the same side, if we drive to work do we slouch in the car? Hands up who has their favourite exercises to do in the gym? How often do you perform the exercises you don’t enjoy or feel any good at?
The reality is, just like the law of physics, the body always follows the path of least resistance for movement; this contributes to excess movement in certain directions. This is called hypermobility. Whilst this is minute, and may not even be obvious to the naked eye, this is very often the cause of the pain. These repeated stresses occur throughout our daily activities and leads to the development of movement patterns. Movement patterns include how much mobility occurs at each joint to achieve a certain function. It is an individual’s strategy for performing a task. For example, when you pick a pen up from the floor… how much movement is bending at the hip? How much is from the lower back? Or do you bend your knees and squat down? The body develops pathways that reinforces the relative hypermobility as you tend to replicate the same pattern each time you repeat the movement. Physiotherapists look to treat the symptoms by retraining how you move and teaching the body to reduce the stress on specific joints.
So, let’s look at it in real terms. Here’s a little task to perform at home. Have look at the people around you. See if you can think of someone with a kyphotic thoracic spine. This is a curvature of the upper back. They might be prone to adopting a poor slouched posture when sat at a table or computer. Ask them to take their hands above their head and note how far they get. Then ask them to sit up tall and repeat the exercise. How high do they get now? You might like to try it yourself. Our function is a combination of learnt behaviours over the years. Sometimes, it can predispose us to injury, but on many occasions it just leads to an insidious onset of pain.