My book, Performance without Pain, focuses on nutrient-dense nutrition that can heal and prevent inflammation and build optimal health. Although superior nutrition is the cornerstone of injury prevention, working on structural symmetry is essential to pain-free movement.
Some people are more likely to have trouble with pain caused from asymmetry. Musicians and athletes often need to perform their work with repetitive asymmetrical motions. Many people do daily activities that require a constant uneven use of the muscles in the body.
Interestingly, females are more susceptible to asymmetrical structural changes because of the tremendous amount of flexibility in the tendons and ligaments of the pelvic floor which allow for childbirth. After a woman has children, she may experience a structural alteration that over time will cause pain.
While many people work with holistic practitioners such as chiropractors and massage therapists to alleviate pain, unless an underlying asymmetrical structural problem is addressed, the discomfort will immediately return. It is therefore critical to be aware that when you have a constant return of a particular pain, it would be wise to seek a different approach to your treatment regimen.
As a clear example, 8 years ago, after having two children, I developed a pain in my left hip when walking. I knew it was caused by a muscular tightening and not inflammation, because I had no injury and my diet was completely anti-inflammatory. Over the course of a few years I tried many common treatments such as chiropractic, muscle activation, exercises like squatting and massage therapy. These approaches seemed to help but the pain kept returning. Additionally, for three years in a row, I sprained muscles on only the right side of my body–my sacroiliac joint, the last rib of my rib cage and this year, my abdominal muscles while playing the clarinet! Had I continued playing my instrument and spraining the muscles of my abdominal wall, I knew I may become seriously injured.
I knew this was not normal. Sprained muscles on only the right side? Spraining abdominal muscles while playing the clarinet? What was wrong?
I decided to work with a trainer who did corrective exercise and work on symmetry. Unfortunately, while asymmetry was the problem, he did not understand the extent of my issue either.
Fortunately, my colleagues suggested I work with Stephanie Davies at SD Rehab in Chicago. She is superior occupational therapist who successfully treats high level musicians in the Chicago Symphony and the Lyric Opera. She also helps people with many other complicated physical therapy issues.
Through working with Stephanie, we concluded that my spine was twisting caused from a change in the pelvic floor after childbirth. Thus I had developed a diagonal support in my body structure. The tell tale sign was that my left foot was turned out when I lay flat because my entire leg had turned out from a structural alteration after childbirth and carrying children in my right arm. Therefore my left hip hurt and eventually as my spine twisted more and more, my rib cage was asymmetrical and the ribs on the left side of my body stopped moving properly. When I exhaled, the right side of my ribs moved unequally to the left side and created a strain to the muscles on my right abdominal wall, eventually causing a muscle sprain. Additionally, as I twisted more, my left collar bone was pressing on the nerves in my left arm, making it feel weak.
Stephanie opened a textbook detailing this disorder which exhibited a red path outlining a strained muscle pattern starting from the left foot, running up the outside of the left leg and hip and crossing over to the right torso area. As you can imagine, finding the underlying cause to this issue was a huge relief! The treatment will take some time however. First, the muscles in my left leg had to be restructured to allow my foot to step straight forward while walking. Then the muscles in my left rib cage had to be activated. I then had to work on getting my left rib cage moving for every exhale equally with the right which initially caused me to twist back to the right as if undoing a knot! Lastly I have a whole series of exercises that will strengthen the correct structure and alignment of the pelvic wall.
A twisting spine is a form of scoliosis and is not only common for women after childbirth, but also for violinists and violists who often twist their body to play their instrument. In fact, a close colleague of mine who was a child prodigy violinist can no longer play without pain because of this issue and must do constant physical therapy as his spine was twisting at a formative age and it has been much more difficult to achieve a permanent correction.
From this experience, I feel it is critical to seek a highly skilled physical or occupational therapist if you have a muscular pain that persists that is not totally solved by nutrient-dense nutrition and your current treatment choices. It could mean the difference of progression of the disorder or finding the underlying cause and permanently correcting the problem.
Best in health,