The Kinetic Chain – Why your shoulders, back, hips, knees, lower legs, ankles and feet hurt!!
“You are only as strong as your weakest link”
“The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone”
Our body is connected in more ways than most know. When there is a long standing orthopedic problem somewhere in your body, chances are the problem is connected in some way to another area of your body. If your ankles or knees hurt just from walking, I would guess that you may have some issues with your feet. Even if your feet are hurting, there may be an issue with your calves. Tight calves can lead to problems in your knees, hips and lower back. This in turn can cause problems in your upper back, shoulders, neck and even head. You see, everything is connected, a kinetic chain. When a part of this chain is weak or damaged, it will affect other parts of the chain. Those parts affect other parts and so on.
I get asked questions constantly about people’s orthopedic problems, and more-so, how to solve them. People ask about sore, creaky knees, shin splints, achy shoulders, hurting ankles, bad feet, etc… While some of these problems are “acute”, meaning that they just occurred, usually from an outside force or trauma, most are linked and directly related to other issues in the body.
Common reasons for these issues are:
- Compensation due to another injury. An example would be putting more weight on one leg to take pressure off of the “bad”, or injured leg.
- Muscular imbalances around a joint. This occurs frequently in the shoulder. In many people the internal rotators are overdeveloped or over activated, while the external rotators are left weak or under activated. Many people have muscular imbalances all over the body that can cause many issues.
- Scar tissue build up or adhesions from previous injury. Most active people have some scar tissue somewhere in the body. Some of us have more than others. If you were ever injured, than you have scar tissue. This scar tissue can cause an obvious limit in range of motion, thus causing improper joint mechanics.
- Improper Movement patterns. If you swing a golf club the wrong way long enough, not only will your golf game suffer, but you will quickly develop bad motor patters or mechanics. This in time will lead to imbalances of strength, and flexibility, pain, injury, and over compensation patterns. Bad movement patterns can occur in anything that you do, whether it is as simple as running, or more complex like throwing a baseball. Bad patters cause bad things to happen over time.
- Genetics. We can’t choose our parents so we are pretty much stuck with the genes that we are born with. People are born with various body types and many structural and functional “issues”.
It is important when dealing with your own “issues” that you look at yourself more closely and try to find out where your problems lie. For example, I was chatting with a gentleman recently about his chronic knee problems. This man had no idea why his knees hurt and gave him problems so much. While it was convenient to blame his problems on “old age”, it became apparent from a quick conversation that most of his problems were the result of past trauma to other parts of his body. Once we identified the issues in these areas that were causing the knee problems, I gave him some basic and effective strategies to help correct the issues. Once corrected, chances are that his knee problems will go away.
I strongly believe that there are numerous “fixes” to most problems in the human body and most of these fixes can be done through simple exercises to correct the imbalances. I notice most people doing the opposite however by trying the band aid approach to the problems as they arise. A handful of Advil, a week off from your activity and some ice might make things feel better temporality, but until the real problem is solved, these issues will continue to haunt you.
Do yourself a big favor; the next time something is hurting, or you finally realize that you have chronic pain that has been with your for more than a month, find out why. Just by pinpointing the other issues in your body, you will better be able to figure out what is causing the current issues and hopefully get them fixed. Seek out a qualified person to help you. Visit your local Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Orthopedic doctor, or educated personal trainer or coach. These people should be able to give you the right information to get you back to where you belong, in good physical health.