Pain is the body’s way of telling you something isn’t right and it can be a very powerful motivator for seeking help. Unfortunately, a lot of time and money can been spent on “treatments” that may take the edge off or offer temporary relief, or even do nothing at all. If the pain progresses it may significantly affect your quality of life.
A common problem is that the focus is too often given to symptoms without properly addressing the causes. Even when there is an obvious injury, once the immediate healing is complete, attention needs to be paid to the structures that “picked up the slack” while healing to avoid future problems.
Pain patterns in the body can develop for a variety of reasons. Activities of daily living, repetitive strains, inactivity, poor posture, and actual direct injuries can be sources of pain. Our bodies are constantly being shaped and re-modeled through a mechanism called “mechanotransduction.” This long word simply means that our bodies will modify both form and function in response to the stresses that are placed upon it.
It’s shouldn’t surprise anyone that we as humans are much less active today than we were in the past. In our modern techno savvy world the sum of our daily activities is much more automated and technology based than ever before which has resulted in less physical activity.
Sitting for long periods of time while working, consuming media (texting, gaming etc), or watching television are the new normal. All this inactivity along with habitual poor posture is undermining our capacity to maintain our structural integrity and proper joint and tissue function when moving. In short, modern living is changing our bodies for the worst. .
The body can be very resilient and a good communicator if we listen. It will find a way to perform the tasks we ask of it even if certain joints or muscles aren’t functioning as they should. The body uses compensation patterns to perform motions when strength, mobility, or stability are lacking.
An example of this would be walking on a limb after an ankle sprain. The body simply replaces its normal gait with an alternate version so that we limit the amount of weight placed on the injured ankle. If you have an injury or restriction in one joint, the joints above and below will compensate.
Compensation patterns can only work for so long though before things break down. The weakest link in the chain often ends up suffering a new injury. Muscles that are overworked will begin to fatigue and become chronically tight. They may be sore or ache. The joints that are compensating can be damaged and eventually over time show signs of degeneration (arthritis).
Compensation patterns are hardly noticeable in the beginning but grow over time. This ‘domino effect’ is detrimental to the adjacent joints, muscles and other soft tissues and our quality of movement.
A perfect example of the compensation ‘domino effect’ is witnessed in an individual who walks and stands on hard flat surface for hours a day. The hard floor has no ‘give’ or flexibility as a padded or natural surface would have which causes the calf muscles to become overworked in attempt to maintain the arch of the foot. The muscles weaken over time due to repetitive stress. Finally, , the the arch collapses from the stress.
Now that the arch has collapsed, the shin turns inward and the outer calf and hamstring muscles have to tighten in attempt to keep the knee in a neutral/stable position. In short, one form of compensation eventually leads to another and another – no matter how subtle the first form of compensation is at the start.
Important to Recognize
One of the most common and overlooked compensation pattern that occurs in the neck, more specifically the upper cervical spine (first two vertebrae). When the top two vertebrae of the spine become misaligned and locked in an unnatural position, a domino effect will be initiated to some extent or the other depending on the structure of the individual.
In other words, we are connected from head to toe. When the neck goes out of alignment, what does the rest of the spine have to do? It compensates! Muscles tighten, joints compensate in order to stabilize and protect this vital area. One shoulder may be higher than the other, your spine will twist or turn, one hip will be raised up and one leg will become “shorter,” All of this will cause abnormal wear and tear on the joints or other soft tissue and if neglected, will cause deterioration and arthritis.
An Upper Cervical Chiropractor has the ability to recognize patterns of compensation and movement dysfunction in this area and provide the individual with the opportunity to correct and neutralize the risks and damage associated with it as well as allow the development of more stability and neurological integrity.
Unfortunately, if uncorrected or undetected, the patterns of compensation and associated dysfunctions can and will disrupt movement, increasing the risk of injury and damage to the body, even if the individual is unaware of these risks.
If you think you might have some compensation going on, here are a few things that you can look for:
- Head tilted slightly to one side
- Head rotated slightly to one side
- Chronic muscle tightness
- Tender points in the same muscles over and over even after stretching and massaging.
- Aches that don’t seem to go away
- Muscle/Joint Pain
- History of whiplash, concussion, falls, auto accident or other trauma
- Problems such as headache, vertigo, ringing in the ears, fibromyalgia, TMJ disorder
Getting checked for spinal misalignment by an Upper Cervical Chiropractor is one of the most important things you can do even before you experience compensation patterns. But if you have any of the symptoms of compensation patterns present, it’s a good idea to get checked out as soon as possible.
Call our office today for a free consultation.Drs. Thad Vuagniaux and Matt Strazewskiat Upper Cervical Health Centers Glen Carbon are committed to helping parents in pain.
Proudly serving the Metro-East and greater St. Louis region including: Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Troy, Hamel, Highland, Belleville, Collinsville, Alton, O’Fallon, Godfrey in Illinois and greater St. Louis, Missouri.