Pain is a part of life but when it's chronic, it becomes the part you’d rather go without. To get lasting relief from ongoing pain and make life whole again, you need to understand why you hurt.
If you can’t find the cause of your pain, you can’t find the solution.
ALL PAIN HAS A SOURCE AND ALL TREATMENT MUST REACH THE SOURCE.
Dr. James Cyriax, Father of Orthopedic Medicine
This post is for people who are actively looking for solutions that extend beyond pills, surgeries and never-ending appointments. We’ll look at the known and lesser-known causes of your pain and the 3 things you need to address for deep, lasting relief.
Bad backs, bad knees, bad hips, bad shoulder, bad necks and bad heads only scratch the surface when it comes to the aches and pains we feel. And boys & girls, do we ever feel them! In 2020 people spent $80.76 billion on drugs and medical devices. That number is set to balloon to $162.18 billion in 2030. All to take the pain away.
And I get it. Living in pain is miserable. It can range from not being able to put on socks in the morning to ending careers and relationships. It’s no joke.
Luckily, I was on the sock spectrum. My low back and hip were a big nuisance for many years, starting 13 years post-surgery. On a bad day I couldn’t spend 30 minutes in the garden without being laid up for a couple of days, stretching and doing physio exercises for relief. On good days I was functional but always nervous I’d do something to aggravate it. I don’t know which was worse.
I was getting help from chiropractors, massage and physiotherapists, plus a scattered acupuncture session. Yoga sometimes helped; other times it made it hurt. I learned to live with it and get on with my day. I never thought to ask – or had anyone explain to me – why I was having this on again-off-again pain.
Have you ever asked yourself or your doctor why you hurt?
Maybe you injured yourself, had a surgery, worked too hard or never took the time to care for your body. Or, how about the number one reason; it’s what happens when you get older.
While all these reasons are true, why are they true?
Why is that old injury still nagging you?
Why haven’t you felt the same since your surgery?
Why do strange and unrelated parts of you hurt?
Why do you associate ageing with more aches and pains?
The easiest answer is fascia. But it’s just the start.
Fascia, or connective tissue is the glue that binds. While it has many properties unlike glue, it can be helpful to imagine your entire inner space being filled with a semi-liquid glue that seeps into every crook and crevice imaginable. It oozes around all your muscles, organs, bones, nerves and cells. It fills all cavities and can act as a cushion and support for all of your internal structures.
While this “glue” is still fluidlike, things are good. You can move your body and your glue glides with your muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerves. In fact, fascia plays a critical role in allowing your internal parts to glide and slide seamlessly; allowing for full range of motion and pain-free movement.
But here’s the catch. The glue doesn’t stay liquid forever. If you maintained correct posture, alignment, breath and were free of injuries or surgeries your glue would stay fluid.
However, each time your body falls from grace and incurs another “injury”, the glue in that area hardens. And to make matters worse, this hardened area restricts all the other glue - just a little bit.
The longer it stays hardened, the further the damage travels and the more pain you feel. To get a visual idea of this in action, check out this video on non-Newtonian fluids!
This also sets up a vicious negative feedback loop; hardened glue can cause degeneration of a joint – and that joint degeneration causes abnormal joint motion – which leads to more hardened glue! This creates a steady stream of inflammation that if masked and not harnessed will cause further damage.
So, that ankle injury you had as a kid may now be affecting your stance, gait knees, hips and more. Now, imagine your entire body!
Add in 30 or 50+ years of poor posture and what do you think that glue has done? It has hardened and it’s not about to let go of all the things it has glued to! If you continue as usual you will accumulate more injuries, poorer posture, greater asymmetry, misalignment and very unknowingly, you will create very dense and adhered fascia – aka more hardened glue.
Next, think about your soft-tissue injuries. During the repair process, the body uses collagen fibers to create new tissue - scar tissue. Here's the rub, scar tissue is weaker, less elastic, has lower proprioceptive abilities (how the body knows where it's various body parts are in space as well as how they are moving in relationship to each other) and it is much more pain sensitive!
You can think of unhealthy fascia as a form of scar tissue building up anywhere the body is injured or severely out of balance. This is one of the key reasons why you hurt as you age.
According to Dr. Schierling and various other experts, "fascia is the most pain sensitive tissue in the body, and scar tissue itself can be over 1,000 times more pain sensitive than normal tissue."
And what are you doing to support your fascia that runs from the top of your head to the tip of your toe!?
I don’t know of any pills or potions that can undue this sort of damage. Massages and chiropractic definitely help. Physio and acupuncture have important roles to play, as do movement, stretching, trigger point therapy and yoga. Rolfing is a great (but potentially inaccessible and painful way) to help at an even deeper level.
To undo this systemic damage and to keep it that way you need a solution that does three things:
1. It heats, softens and releases the glue that binds.
We’re not talking about foam rollers, massaging guns and tennis balls here. While helpful for some, most of the fascia release props used today focus on surficial fascia. There are many layers of fascia in the body and in order to accomplish the greatest release for the greatest relief you need to go deep; ultimately all the way to the bone. Using something of lesser or greater density than bone will not allow this deep, safe release.
Time – this is a big one. Most techniques do not focus on a specific area of the body for a sustained period of time. In order to get a deep release you need to spend at least 3 minutes in each area.
2. It creates space in and around every cell to encourage proper cell functioning and to allow cells to move back into correct position.
Once you have an effective release you need to inflate this new space. Pain, stress and fear cause your breath to become shallow. To properly inflate this newly discovered space you need to engage your respiratory diaphragm. When used fully, it can bring in 6X the amount of oxygen!
Diaphragmatic breathing also heats the body internally, accelerating the release of fascia. With any fascia release technique be sure to tie in proper breathwork!
3. It improves your posture and alignment so your healthy cells don’t fall back into the trap, thus starting the cycle all over again.
To maintain this new body of yours you will need to strengthen the 3 postural foundations of the body. This is easier than it sounds because once you free up the fascia that has been keeping you locked in negative alignment, your body is ready and willing to do things you never thought possible!
Will you ever be perfect and completely pain free? Will you avoid all injuries and surgeries? Will you stop growing older?
Of course not!
But you can work on the things within your control. This includes learning to work with unhealthy fascia, engaging proper diaphragmatic breath and working on the fundamentals of good posture. Until you do this, your pain relief will be temporary and elusive.
The good news is this process is available to everyone, regardless of pain levels, past injuries, surgeries or how old you may be (or feel!).
It’s never too late to move towards a healthier, less pain filled life. Let’s be honest, what’s the other option?
I probably don’t have to tell you because you’ve been living it and I’m guessing it’s not a path you want to follow for much longer.
Try a small course correction with this free posture guide and self-assessment.
You’ll never know how much benefit one small change can have, until you try it.
Believing you well,