Is my pain muscular or structural?

There are millions of Americans that are getting pain-related surgeries every year.  In my opinion, most of those should never happen. We have become a country dependent upon quick fixes, pills for every ill, and many times the notion “if it hurts, cut it out/off”. 

A typical scenario plays out like this:  

  • A person is experiencing pain in a particular joint or around the joint.  
  • He/she follows what americans are trained to do and visits a western medical practitioner, who orders an X-Ray and/or MRI, and subsequently finds a structural variation like a meniscal tear, osteoarthritis, cartilage tear - or as I hear all the time from patients, “my medical doctor said its bone on bone.”  
  • The medical practitioner or surgeon will then sit you down and show you images of decreased joint space or some other structural problem and tell you that this is the cause of your pain.  For most people that have no formal training in reading diagnostic imaging, whatever is said by the doctor is taken as complete fact.  
  • For most medical practitioners, diagnostic tests have become the end-all-be-all for determining health or disease.  Thus, when there is structural deviation on a diagnostic test - this becomes the supreme and only diagnosis.  
  • Any discussion on muscular involvement, neurological involvement, or any combination of factors has no bearing - yet in reality the body does NOT work exactly like a typical machine made up of separate interchangeable parts.  

Yes, there can be structural problems, as well as muscular issues, on top of neurological disorders.  The fact of the matter is simple. EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.  All the “systems” of the body work together and are inseparable!  

It comes down to understanding the anatomy and physiology of the human body.  I hear everyday “it’s just muscular” or “there’s nothing that can be done, it’s bone on bone”.   There is no such thing as “just a muscle problem” or “just a structural problem”. Bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments are all connected.  If a muscle is tight it will pull on the bone, if a bone is misaligned it will pull on the muscle. THEY ARE CONNECTED! 

The system that ties it all together is the nervous system.  Muscles DO NOT act on their own.  I have to explain this to patients everyday - muscles contract only when the nervous system tells them to.   Typically muscular contraction occurs if you want to either MOVE your body or stabilize joints, and most of the time muscular contraction occurs without you consciously thinking about doing it ( think artery dilation, diaphragm for breathing, postural muscles, constriction/dilation of the eye, etc.).   Everybody understands that muscular contraction moves joints, but most don’t understand that muscles also contract to stabilize and protect joints from moving too far or moving at all (if injury is present).

Your Encinitas chiropractor often see in patients is the latter. They have so much bone/joint degeneration that the intelligent nervous system fires those muscles surrounding the joint and in essence “hugs” the joint to limit range of motion.  This in turn will help avoid further tissue damage and decrease pain levels. However, prolonged “hugging” of the joint will ultimately lead to more joint degeneration. WHAT? WHY? Joints need motion, full range of motion, to stay healthy! Short term lack of motion can be a useful part of the healing process, but long-term chronic decrease in range of motion leads to pain!

As you can see, this intricate relationship between the nervous system, bones, joints, and muscles is VERY COMPLEX.  There are entire books and textbooks written to explain this relationship. The fact of the matter is...if you’re experiencing joint pain, low back pain, neck pain, elbow pain, etc., you need to look at ALL the factors involved, not just X-Ray/MRI, physical exam, blood tests, or any other test performed.  It is imperative to assess the underlying cause and treat accordingly. Patients at K2 Health Center always receive thorough evaluations to see what combination of treatment is needed.    

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems in healthcare is the lack of integration.  Most patients present to me after having tried many therapies, but hardly ever have they tried several therapies all at one time, in the right order, for a long enough time frame.  Healing does not happen in one day. It takes time, effort, and consistency.

We offer a combination of diagnostic testing, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, muscular rehabilitation, corrective exercises, nutrition therapy, Cold Laser Therapy, and lifestyle changes.  Look for a chiropractor in Encinitas or search for chiropractors near me for a check up.

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Dr. Steven Keener believes in the power that animates the living world, revering the body as an innately intelligent organism of health and wellness.

Through education and empowerment, Dr. K guides patients to embrace a belief system centered on principles of physiology, trusting in the cause and effect of natural law.

With an emphasis in cranio-cervical neurology, tailored care plans are expertly designed to optimize the body’s potential to thrive.
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Encinitas, CA 92024
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