Chronic Pain Info

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A Major Cause of Chronic Pain

Musculoskeletal pain may be caused by many things:  Accident, injury, overuse of certain muscles, underuse of certain muscles, poor diet, the way we sit, the way we stand, the way we drive, the way we work, the sports we play, even the way we sleep.  However, clinical experience has shown us that one of the most frequent and most troublesome causes at the root of nagging, recurrent chronic pain is skeletal asymmetry, yet unfortunately it is very frequently either neglected or ignored by the majority of practitioners in the various health care, wellness, and fitness professions.

What is Skeletal Asymmetry?

Skeletal asymmetry means simply that the two sides of the bony structure of the body are not symmetrical, most often because the matching bones on either side of the body are of different sizes.  For example, many  people are aware that they have, say, one foot slightly longer or wider than the other, or perhaps one hand span slightly larger or smaller than the other,  or some similar difference between their left and right sides.  Differences like these are so common as to be almost universal, but they are just part of natural human variation and are usually not a problem.  Indeed, many people may go all their lives without knowing that, for example, their two scapulae or shoulder blades are different sizes.  As long as the difference in bone size doesn’t result in perceived pain or dysfunction, people with such differences go happily through life without any noticeable effects from that difference in bone size.

When is Skeletal Asymmetry a Problem?

If the difference in the bony structure - the skeletal asymmetry - occurs in the height of the arches of the feet, the length of the lower or upper leg, or the height of the two halves of the pelvis, such a difference can often be a rich source of recurrent chronic pain that seems to defy all attempts at treating it.  Here’s why:

If you have a slight difference in, for example, the length of your feet or the span of your hands, that normally doesn’t cause you pain or really affect you much at all.  However, your body is supported when standing by two columns of bone that start at the soles of the feet and end in the two halves of the pelvis which enclose and support the downward-pointing triangular sacrum between them.  If those two columns of bone are exactly the same length, the top surface of that triangular sacrum will be level and the rest of the vertebrae or spinal bones will stack up nicely in a vertical column, as they should.  When this happens, the weight of your upper body is carried properly through your spine and into your pelvis, then equally through your legs into the earth.  Your bones are doing their job, which is to support weight, and your muscles are, for the most part, relatively unloaded and at rest.

If, however, one of those columns of bone is longer or shorter than the other, your pelvis will necessarily tip downward on the shorter side, as a result of which your vertebrae will stack up at an angle, like putting a brick on a slanted surface, then trying to stack other bricks on top of it.  Naturally, the stack of bricks would tilt toward the low side and eventually fall over.  When this happens in your spine, the body instinctively tries to correct for this tilt and pull your spine upright to keep your eyes level so that you can remain functional and balanced.  And how does your body pull you upright?  It tightens muscles.  Your body will contract whatever muscles it needs to in order to keep you upright, and it does so every single minute that your spine is upright in the standing or sitting position, or both.  However, muscles are designed for motion, not continuously carrying weight, which is the job of bones, so when muscles are forced to do the job of bones (i.e., to carry weight for long periods of time), they become like bone, stiff and tight, as a result of which they in turn become painful.  

As a result, unless the length difference in the bones that is causing the pain problem is corrected for, the pain will continue to recur.  If this structural root cause of the chronic pain exists and is not resolved, NO treatment, whether by us or by any other health care professional - no medications, no manipulations, no muscular therapy, no exercise - will ever give more than temporary relief and the patient will be doomed to endless cycles of (often expensive) treatment, followed by relapse.  Getting the body level and balanced is absolutely critical to helping to relieve a large percentage of musculoskeletal pain cases, which is why we do a thorough postural and structural evaluation of every new patient, normally on the first visit, before we start any therapy.  If we find any such skeletal asymmetry that may be causing your pain, not only do we test you to determine how much correction may be required, we also show you how you can make this correction yourself, thus putting you in control of your own health. This can also save you a lifetime of paying for unsuccessful treatments for chronic pain, pain that can be greatly reduced or eliminated just by having you sit and stand level.

Take a Look for Yourself

If you want to look to see if you may have some sort of skeletal asymmetry or other structural issue that may be at the root of your chronic pain problem, click here for a list of some common signs that can indicate that a structural or postural issue may exist.