If your ache, pain or injury has lasted longer than 3 months, you don’t need a diagnosis; you need an explanation.
Your body is a marvel of ingenuity and it repairs most damage without you having to do anything, beyond rest for a while.
Three months is the arbitrary cutoff between “acute” and “chronic” injuries. Acute injuries should be better in 3 months, even if it’s as serious as a broken bone. There is also a type of chronic pain known as episodic. Episodic pain is chronic pain that comes and goes and is probably the most common type of chronic pain.
Yet every year, millions of acute injuries linger and develop into chronic and episodic ones.
These are costly. Not just in terms of the medical costs, but personally, as the problem affects every part of the patient’s life.
People with chronic pain usually have a useless diagnosis, because while it might describe the injury, it tells them nothing about why their body hasn’t healed it yet.
Aside from painkillers, the medical approach is pain relief, rest or exercise. None of these restore the normal healing response. Exercise is the most popular remedy these days but if exercise was the answer to healing then elite athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Owen would never be injured, yet they are, despite the best medical care money could buy.
So we need to figure out what your injury is and why your body isn’t fixing it.
Most musculoskeletal injuries are joint injuries. A joint is two bones, joined by ligaments and controlled by muscles.
Joints are injured when muscles fail to react fast enough and strongly enough against an incoming force. It is muscles that are supposed to resist those forces but sometimes they don’t and that is when the joint is prone to injury and failure to heal.
What could cause muscles to fail to control a joint?
Muscles can become inhibited.
Inhibition is where the nervous system “switches off” various muscles.
Inhibition is necessary for normal movement.
When one muscle is active, its opposite is toned down slightly (but not completely) so that both are pulling, just not by the same amount. If both muscles pulled the same there would be no movement. If one pulled without the other, the joint would dislocate.
You can imagine how important this is for unstable and flat joints like the shoulder or the knee, but it’s important for all joints.
Sometimes muscle inhibition can become persistent or even permanent.
If you step on a nail, your hamstring muscles will contract which means your quadriceps will be inhibited.
If you never took the nail out, your quadriceps would continue to be inhibited and weak because the cause has not been removed, yet both muscles would feel normal.
‘Yes,’ you might say, ‘but you would always take the nail out!’
Not necessarily. What about those earrings, or that belly piercing?
Skin is very sensitive, it can feel one hair move. If you put a piercing through your stomach skin, it will activate your abdominals and inhibit your spinal extensor muscles, the ones that hold you upright. You will feel perfectly normal until the next time you have to lift something heavy, when you may well sprain the joints of your low back, giving you low back pain.
Unless you take the belly piercing out, your low back pain might never go away.
Sarah had two years of low back pain. It went away in one visit after she removed her belly piercing.
And you can hear from this dancer whose performance improved when she took hers out.
Simon King has been testing patients for muscle inhibition for 30 years.
As well as piercings, he has identified 15 other causes of muscle inhibition, all of which can be removed, restoring the reflexes that control muscle function to normal.
So if your pain has lasted more than 3 months, or if there are certain movements you can’t do any more, it’s important to have your muscles checked for inhibition because it’s almost impossible to check yourself, let alone work out what is causing your inhibition.
Apart from pain, you might notice you can’t do what you used to be able to do, but until it starts to hurt, mostly people just resign themselves to lost ability, or think that they are getting old. Remember, you can’t fix inhibition with exercise – you can try, and most people do, but what they end up with is even worse pain and injury.
Once inhibition is found, it’s usually straight-forward to reverse-engineer the weakness, remove the cause and then allow the body to use it’s natural healing ability to repair the damaged tissues, just like nature intended.
The system Simon uses for diagnosis and treatment is called Afferent Input. It’s a system he’s developed, written a book about and has taught to about 800 chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists worldwide.
Simon King is a musculoskeletal expert who’s primary focus is to treat and prevent musculoskeletal injuries.
Simon is available Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
He enjoys taking care of amateur and professional sports people as well as patients with chronic pain and/or disability.