Hey Doc, I Think My Problem’s Just “Muscular”.
Post by Dr. Bret Wickstrom:
This is one of the most common statements I hear. Sadly, muscular symptoms are more often a SECONDARY condition to the primary structural shift condition. That’s exactly why I focus on structural correction instead of muscular treatment. In RARE situations, muscular conditions can be the primary condition that is contributing to an abnormal structural shift. Muscular dystrophy, which is a hereditary condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles which can lead to spinal shifting like scoliosis, is a one example of this. More often than not though these muscular problems that everyone is so bent on blaming all there symptoms on is a result of muscle tension or trigger points that have developed in the muscles due to the structural shift in their spine.
Telephone Tower Analogy
Picture a telephone tower with the long wires that go from the ground to the top of the tower. If the foundation of the tower is compromised the tension in the wires, just like the muscles, is going to change. One side may be tighter whereas the other side will be loose. Both a loose and tight wire present problems to the integrity of the structure but to fix it you don’t want to just loosen the tight wire and tighten the loose one. That may help address the obvious visual symptoms you see on the wires. In fact, you might not even be able to tell that there is a foundational problem if the wires are all evenly tensioned.
Make no mistake, the problem still exists and the tower is at a higher risk for potential failure if the foundation is not corrected and repaired. The same is true if you decide to ignore the need for a structural exam and treat only the secondary muscular symptoms like neck pain, low back pain, headaches, etc. I see this all the time when patients wait because they think that self-treatment BEFORE determining the primary problem is a good idea. Massage, trigger point therapy, stretching or exercise are not bad things but it’s important to understand that they cannot CORRECT an abnormal shift in the same way that wire care cannot fix the towers foundation even in the pain is gone.
No one who knows there is a foundational shift under the tower will shrug it off and just say, “I think the problem is just the wires.” Because they know that, while the wires may need to be adjust, they are not the primary cause of the wires change in tension, the foundation is. The same holds true for your spine and muscles. It is essential to inspect the foundations (your spine) structure first to rule out and abnormal shift. Whether there spine is normal or abnormal the muscles may still need adjustments but it would be foolish and dangerous to focus only on the secondary problems and not the primary.
Fortunately we can help with addressing the primary structural issues. In rare cases where the muscular trigger points are so severe that they are not allowing the structure to be properly corrected, it is possible to treat the muscular issue with trigger point therapy. For more information on this see our Trigger Point Self Care blog.