The Shin Bone Is Connected to the Thigh Bone

I deal with muscle imbalances all day with my training and massage clients.  When people feel an ache or pain they immediately assume the point of discomfort is the problem.  What I have learned from my years of practice is that it is not usually the only problem.  When someone comes to me for massage on a specific issue I always try to look just above and just below the problem area to determine if there is a bigger issue.  While everyone knows the big “sexy” muscles like Lats, Traps, Biceps, etc. they don’t think about the little muscles that help with all the work.  Additionally people don’t think about the fascial system that runs throughout the body.  “The fascial system surrounds, infuses with, and has the potential to influence profoundly every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, organ, and cell of the body.  Fascia also separates, supports, connects, and protects everything.”  

When working with massage clients it is always important for me to consider the surrounding tissue to attempt to determine the cause of a client’s complaint.  If I only work the specific “problem” area I may be able to elicit a short term period of relief, but the problem will keep returning until the root issue is found.  If a client presents with a complaint of pain in their mid traps, I will also check the stability and mobility of their scapula.  The trap may be locked in place as a protective mechanism.  I also check the client’s pectoral region.  Tightened pecs can create an anterior rotation of the shoulder region causing strain on the traps because they are being forced to work harder due to the anterior tilt.  This is similar to when you have to smile a lot more than usual.  While you may not be using more muscles to smile (this has been studied extensively, but never proven) you will notice that your face will get sore quickly from using muscles that are not used to being active for prolonged periods of time.

I have been working with a client for weeks to help alleviate his hip tightness.  A couple of weeks ago he commented that his feet were really hurting as well.  I gave him some specific stretches and exercises he should do to help his feet issues.  When I saw him next I asked how things were going, and if he had been doing the work I suggested.  He had been doing the hip work, but not the work for his feet.  He said he doesn’t need to worry about them to squat.  This is a perfect example of not looking at the bigger picture.  What many people don’t think about is that discomfort in one body part can lead to problems elsewhere in the body.  For example, if your foot is hurting you will likely change your gait putting more weight on the opposite leg.  This will likely cause a decrease in the mobility of your ankle or for you to walk with your knees more bent than usual.  From there your hips will be thrown out of alignment causing low back pain, and hip tightness.  Therefore, all of the hard work he and I are doing to open his hips is limited by his foot pain and the problems arising from said pain.  While addressing the foot pain will not immediately cure his hip immobility, it will take one more component out of the mix keeping his hips from the mobility he needs.

In short, don’t lose sight of the big picture.  Your body works as a unit, and when one thing is not working correctly it can be felt throughout your body.  Also, don’t dismiss small aches because the faster you get them fixed the easier it will be, and the less work it will likely require.

Yvonna Covington

1.  Myofascial Release – the search for excellence John F. Barnes, P.T.

2. Snopes “Does it really take more muscles to smile?”

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1 Response
  1. Robert M.

    Good reminder Yvonna! It is easy to ignore an area that we don’t think will affect our goals, when in fact it could be that one small thing that is keeping us from reaching them.

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