Ever injure your neck and, to your surprise, find you have a sore low back a few days later? Or may be you’ve turned your ankle, only to find your knee and hip hurting later on. The explanation is easy enough – all of the bones and muscles in your body are interconnected, and therefore apt to fall victim to a chain reaction once an injury is set in place.
First, basic anatomy has to be addressed before looking at how pain can travel through muscles in the body. The basic structure of the body is made up of two things – muscles and bones. Bones provide a rigid framework that protects internal organs and keeps us upright – after all, without bones we would be a mushy blob of muscles and organs, moving at the speed of a caterpillar. Muscles allow for those bones to move in a multitude of different directions – without them our bodies couldn’t move at all! Almost every muscle in the body connects to two different bones and cause movement by contracting or shortening its length. This does not mean that all muscles work by bringing bones closer together, but that all muscles move bones in one direction or another. For example, if you take your arm and lay it flat on a table, palm facing up, you can see that none of your muscles are engaged. However, if you want to move your forearm closer to your upper arm you have to shorten your bicep muscle (in the front of your arm), which pulls the bones in your forearm up in the air. If you wish to press your forearm into the table, moving it away from your upper arm you have to shorten your tricep muscle (in the back of your arm), which pushes the bones in your forearm into the table top. There are even small muscles responsible for rolling your forearm and hand from side to side!
The most important part to understand about muscles movement is the fact that muscles have to be attached to two different bones to cause movement. Think about this: if a farmer was attempting to pull a bucket full of water out of a well he would need to attach a rope to both the bucket and his hands to make a difference. If he tied both ends of the rope to the bucket it wouldn’t move, nor would it move if he were holding both ends in your hand. Muscles work the same – a muscle (the rope) must be attached to a origin point (the farmer) and an ending or “insertion” point (the bucket).
Now that we know muscles must attach to two different bones it must be said that every bone in the body has multiple muscles attached to it! Since bones need to move up, down, forward, backward, and around there must be muscles to provide this movement for EVERY bone that can perform these feats. Not all bones can move in every direction – ever tried twisting a finger around? – but all bones have at least SOME movement. If we look at the forearm again we can see that the bones within, called the radius and ulna, have muscles attached to it that can lift the forearm, straighten the forearm, twist the forearm, extend the hand (pressing the top of the hand back), flex the hand (pressing the palm of the hand down), twist the hand, and even flex and extend the fingers!
All of these different muscles, with different origins and insertions, can be a complicated network within the body. Imagine now that one of these muscles is injured and has gone into a phase of inflammation and constant tightness, better known as a muscle spasm. In this state an injured muscle with be constantly pulling on the two bones it connects with, causing any ligaments, joints or muscles between them to experience undue pressure and strain. Eventually this increased strain will cause one or both of the bones to shift slightly to relieve the pressure. When this shift happens all of the muscles attached to the shifted bones will now experience their own strain and irritation, having been moved out of their normal place. As you can see, these types of muscle strains and bone shifts (called subluxations) can cause a chain reaction throughout the body in ways you may never expect.
Not all is lost, however, since there are professionals that do expect these things to happen. Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Orthopedic Surgeons, and Physical Therapists are all professionals that can predict these types of reactions in the body. Our job is to correct muscle spasms and subluxations before a domino effect happens. The only way we can do this, however, is if you come in to see us when you feel something “off” in your body, or if you’ve had an injury. Even though receiving treatments for what may seem like a relatively simple discomfort may seem trivial and wasteful you may actually be preventing the spread of painful muscle spasms throughout your own body. After all, now you know Dem Dry Bones was right, and the thigh bone really IS connected to the hip bone!