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  • Writer's pictureEdmond Ma

Is the area of pain always to blame?

Pain is one of the most common reasons for a physio visit. It often stops us from achieving our goals, restricts our activity or limits our ability to perform every day tasks. As physios, we frequently hear things like ‘I have a bad back’ or ‘I can’t run because my knees are bad’ - but hang on. What if I told you that your site of pain usually isn’t the reason you have pain!

The human body moves as one unit, especially when you’re doing tasks such as running, lifting, playing sports and basically every other thing in every day life. For example, when we’re running, all our muscles from our calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core, shins and many more are working together to keep you moving. Without any testing or assessment, it’s easy to say that your knees are ‘bad’ because they are sore - but it could easily be the other way around. What if your knees are actually really strong, but they’re sore because they’re doing all the work and it’s not getting help from your calves or your glutes when you run?

Imagine coming into work expecting 3 other people to help you with a project - but they all call in sick. Now you’ve got to do the project on your own! You’re stressed you’ve got more work to do, you’re hurting but but it’s not your fault! A little bit of help from someone else will reduce your workload. This may be the same scenario going on with your knees (or whatever other niggle you may be dealing with)!

Other factors such as work stress, anxiety, sleep quality, diet, sudden change in every day activity, change in training environment/volume/intensity also have a huge contribution to pain!

When we assess pain, we must look at the joints moving above the pain area as well as below. Again, using the knee as an example, looking at the way the ankle moves as well as the hips are absolutely crucial in formulating an effective treatment plan to really get to the root cause of the issue. It could be due to stiffness in your ankles or weakness in your hips! You could be rehabilitating your knee and getting nowhere - and that’s because it’s not always the site of pain that’s the problem.

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