Pain is our body's warning system
It's been quite a few years now since I first took notice of an interesting phenomenon that was occurring in the patient population I was seeing while I worked in the medical industry. Patients were attending repeatedly for chronic injuries that were never getting better—sometimes I would see the same patient over a 7 year period for the same injury. Sometimes these started as an acute injury, but many times there was no incident at all. The patient would say the pain started "out of the blue" or from performing a minor task... like oh, how about... sleeping!!
Many times these injuries are explained away as "surely you must have done something you don't remember" or repetitive strain injury. And I really love that concept because it begs the question: why do some workers performing the same task suffer RSI while others do not?
Patients would say to me "I feel like I'm falling apart" and in my nutrition practice, clients would say the same thing, and yet the answer applied in the conventional world of health is very different from the functional world.
So lets explore this concept.
Let us look at a common scenario - the shoulder (knee, wrist, ankle, elbow... pick your favourite joint or combination) injury. A patient presents, with lets say, unexplained pain. Often anti-inflammatories are administered and either a wait and see approach is applied or imaging is recommended perhaps x-ray, hopefully ultrasound... maybe MRI. A common diagnosis might be bursitis, tendinosis or a tear. The typical treatment scenario is pain management (medication), rest, strapping, physiotherapy. If its ongoing then maybe a cortisone injection... once... twice... three times, sometimes more. Maybe eventually a surgical opinion is considered. Sound familiar?
But how often is the rest of the body investigated for unexplained and chronic joint pain?
Here are my top 5 questions worth asking:
1. Are you experiencing pain or weakness in any other joints/muscles?
2. What other health conditions are you living with? And not just the big ones, the little ones like poor sleep, snoring, reflux, bloating, chronic skin conditions?
3. Do you have digestive issues?
4. Do you have hormonal issues - low testosterone, Prostate issues, symptomatic periods or menopause?
5. Do you wake up unrefreshed, achy and sore?
Why? Because nothing that happens in the body is isolated. Everything is interconnected, and if your body is constantly dealing with something like chronic underlying inflammation, this eventually leads us to body breakdown. It certainly doesn't allow the body the time or resources to heal. We call these underlying stressors and sometimes the cause of a peripheral issue, like ankle pain, can be found in a seemingly unrelated part of the body. Like the gut. But if all we do is focus on the collateral damage rather than the root cause, we wind up chasing patch job after patch job. And don't kid yourself... over time the patch jobs required throughout the body accumulate.
Pain is never fun... I get that. But it is our body's warning system, telling us that if we do not stop and listen to this signal, more and bigger issues are on the way.
So the next time you head back for your next patch job, think about what else might be happening within you that could be creating your pain and try a different perspective. You might be surprised at what you discover and what you are capable of healing on your own.