Pain: Where You Think It Is, It Ain’t
Written by: Coach Slater
Sometimes, problems at one joint show up as pain in the joint above or below. When joints that are supposed to be mobile become immobile, another stable joint is forced to compensate, which typically leads to pain or injury. Lose hip mobility, get low back pain. Lose ankle mobility, get knee pain. Lose thoracic mobility, get neck/shoulder pain (or low back pain).
As coaches, we work diligently to spot these issues before they become an issue for you. We may recognize “stiff” movement and wonder if a past injury or poor repetitive movements caused the body to get stiff in order to find stability where it has none. If you’ve foam-rolled forever, but not made any discernible change and still feel tight, then it’s likely that you haven’t fixed the stability issue occurring elsewhere in your body.
Turns out, a tight muscle and a fatigued muscle look pretty similar. If we see “tight” hamstrings on someone, we assume you don’t use your glutes well. In turn, your hamstrings are working harder, becoming fatigued. If we see a lack of thoracic spine mobility, we look next for core stability issues. Maybe you can do a plank for a long time, but you can’t rotate fully. Maybe you feel tightness in the front of your hip. That stiffness might be a protective gate from your inability to be stable elsewhere.
Pain is an alarm signal for vulnerability elsewhere. Performing any movement with poor technique and simply trying to go harder, longer, or faster is a great way to get injured. Remember, more is not better, better is better, and we’re here to help.