This is a quote which really resonates with me as it relates to injuries:
“You have to listen when it whispers as opposed to waiting for it to yell!”
The idea is simple: if you ignore minor aches and pains, they rarely just magically disappear.
Instead, they start to amplify by volume or intensity. Causing you to reach a painful threshold where a TRUE injury happens and more extensive intervention is required. The research actually supports this concept - but only if you know how to dig a bit deeper.
One study in particular is this Scandinavian study of patellar tendinopathy in junior basketball players. This study had 134 teenagers (268 total knees examined) and found that only 19 tendons presented clinically with symptoms.
However, under ultrasound diagnostic examination, 22% of the remainder of the group who had no pain, could be diagnosed with tendinopathy. In other words, "ultrasound tendon abnormality is 3 times as common as clinical symptoms or being in pain."
This study just looked at teenagers, who are markedly less likely to have tendinopathy than older individuals.
What if they did this study on middle-aged men playing hoops at the local YMCA. The point is that whether you have symptoms or not, you likely have some changes in your tissues.
Now to be honest, this study isn't particularly shocking to anyone who's looked at MRIs of asymptomatic (not in pain) individuals.
I’ve seen loads of x-rays, MRIs, and Diagnostic Ultrasounds in non painful people but according to their diagnostic image they have a rotator cuff tears or spondylolysis (stress fractures) or torn labrums or herniated discs. This list goes on and on…
The point I am making is that if we just treat a person’s image we are missing the boat.
It’s also a reminder that we often have several issues that might just be waiting to reach a painful threshold if we aren't cognizant of our training volume and intensity - and our movement quality.
The country background in me refers to these slight movement problems as a bit "wobby jobbered". In other words, something is a bit “off” and not necessarily a problem currently but could be a contributing factor to something down the road.
Maybe it's that cranky knee first thing in the morning, but feels good after you warm it up. Or, it's that stiff neck you get after a few hours of working at the computer, but feels better after your spouse massages your neck (ha yea right!). Or maybe its a shoulder that bugs you only when you bench press, but feels pretty good when you do rows instead.
Maybe it's seeking out some extra manual therapy in a specific area that we provide at On Track Physio. Maybe it’s a more individualized home program or warm-up to address movement issues. It might even be that you strategically drop particular exercises from your program at various points during the year.
If nothing more, understand that good training and movement teaches your body how to spread stress over multiple joints. Instead of that cranky knee taking on 90% of the load, we work on hip and ankle mobility and strength so that it might only have to be 30%. Spreading out the stress ensures that one area is less likely to feel “wobby jobbered”.
Distribute stress requires you understand what quality movement actually looks like, and that's unfortunately where a lot of healthcare professionals fall short. Which is why we offer a Free Discovery Session to all new clients in order to experience the difference at On Track Physio!