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If I Don’t Have an Injury, What’s Wrong?

If you’ve ever had pain that didn’t start with an injury, accident or fall;

If this pain just “came on one day and slowly got worse”;

If you’ve “just always sort of had this pain”;

We treat this pain every single day. Not all pains start from a traumatic accident or sports injury. In fact, I think more of what we treat is what we call a muscle or movement imbalance.

The body’s initial way of moving, it’s motor programming, is something we do not get to choose. It is something that is influenced and affected by various things in our DNA and environment. We move in this pattern, maybe for years, until it is influenced by something else (think growth spurt, sports, injuries, desk job, standing job, having a baby, trauma, stress, etc.). Poor movement patterns for an extended period of time can and will likely cause the body to load in ways that aren’t efficient and/or cause pain.

Picture this: two people have to move 100 heavy boxes from one end of a football field to the other. 50 boxes in, person A decides it’s too hot and they can’t continue. Person B ends up moving the other 50 boxes alone. In this situation, we had a movement pattern (each individual moving 50 boxes) that was working fine. An outside influence (heat) caused a change to the pattern and now person B has to take on a lot more load. Who do you think will be hurting by the end of 100 boxes? Person B didn’t have an “injury” that happened, right? An environmental change caused Person A to stop doing their job which caused Person B to significantly increase their job.

In a human body, this might look like: you sprained your ankle once in high school, never rehabbed those muscles, joints, ligaments back to baseline and then a few years later out of nowhere had knee pain with running. Or, you started a desk job and found yourself sitting most of the day. This position caused your hip flexors to become weaker and tighter as well as your glutes to become a little slower to respond when it comes to bringing your hips to extension and now you have gradually had more and more low back pain. You had a baby and were not informed of any sort of aftercare and your gyno tells you “it’s normal to pee when you laugh, sneeze, cough, etc.”

The body unfortunately does not say “this is the best way to move so let’s do it like this”. It’s more like “this person is really good at using their quads so let’s just use those for everything”. The body is a master compensator/cheater, whatever you want to call it, until there are no more ways to cheat. Then we get pain. Just like the song, the arm bone is connected to the shoulder bone is connected to the spine bone is connected to the leg bone….and therefore there are a lot of ways to compensate. This is why ankle pain can become knee pain can become hip and back pain.

I have a lot of patients that get very surprised by these gradual pains because “they’ve never had an issue with their knee/back/hip before”. Again, sadly, the body does not just upkeep with its own necessary strength training and mobility needs, we have to work on them on a regular basis! This is also why it’s so important to not overlook “small” things that happen to us such as ankle sprains, pulled muscles, backs being “thrown out”, etc.

Bodies are silly sometimes, but they’re the only ones we’ve got. So we HAVE to take care of them!


Mackenzie Janner PT, DPT, CSMT, SFMA, Certified Sportsmetrics, Certified Functional Dry Needling L1

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