The other day I had a funny conversation with my sweet boyfriend. He said, “My wrist hurts!” I gave him a quick once – over and noticed that not only was his hip out of position but so was his shoulder. I looked up at him calmly and said, “it’s not your wrist,” and went on with eating breakfast.
He’s now starting to get used to conversations like this, so he smiled at me indulgently and said as he was wiggling his hand around, “But my wrist hurts!” This time, I looked at him squarely in the eyes, took a deep breath, and said again, more earnestly this time, “It’s not your wrist.” This time, I explained exactly what I had noticed: that his shoulder was out of position and his hip was elevated on one side. I’m not entirely sure what he said to me in response to that but it was the equivalent of, “So what?”
It reminded me of conversations that I’ve had with my clients over the years and how I have successfully (and unsuccessfully) argued my position and observations with the client(s) who want me to focus on the symptom(s) that hurt. One day I was finally rewarded with a conversation that started like this: my client Mike walked in and said to me, “My knee hurts. I know it’s not my knee, but my knee hurts today.”
Aaah. Happiness! Breakthrough! He gets it!
What exactly did he mean by that?
The world seems to want to focus on the symptom of the problem and not necessarily the cause of the problem. In the case of my sweet boyfriend, I had him lie longways on foam roller, do some hip exercises, shoulder blade exercises, and then get up after about 20 minutes. I then asked him, “How do you feel?” His hip and shoulder position were significantly better, by the way, and as he started to wiggle around his hand he said, somewhat surprised, “My wrist feels better!” He knit his eyebrows for a second as he said, “But we didn’t do anything to the wrist itself!?”
(Point! Set! Match! 🙂
I resisted the enormously great temptation to say “I told you so!” and instead sweetly smiled, saying,”It wasn’t your wrist! It was never your wrist. Your wrist was just feeling the ramifications of a shoulder out of position sitting on top of a hip out of position.”
The proof is in the pudding! His wrist was better, and we didn’t ice his wrist, heat his wrist, massage his wrist, ultrasound his wrist, paraffin his wrist, manipulate his wrist, laser his wrist, exercise his wrist, or adjust his wrist.
The wrist wasn’t the problem!
The wrist does what the elbow tells it to do, and the elbow is subjected to what the shoulder says to do, and the shoulder has to sit on top of a hip, which really has the ultimate say. Sometimes the thing that hurts is actually the problem, but if you aren’t getting anywhere with just addressing what hurts, I invite you to look elsewhere.
The same thing happened to me recently.
Over the last couple weeks, my sweet boyfriend has very patiently been taking me out onto the river to learn to kite board. One of the things you have to learn to do when you kite board is occasionally completely let go of the bar. It is attached to your harness at one end and via strings to the kite at the other; doing so allows the kite to decelerate and de-power. If you don’t let go to decelerate and de-power the kite, and let’s say a gust of wind comes along, you tend to get yanked, hard, and sometimes completely off your feet!
For a few weeks, when people would ask how kiteboarding was going, I would reply that I was an unbelievable face-planter. 🙂 This happened on many, many consecutive attempts. His comment to me at the time was, “You just caught more air than I ever have! You sure want to hang on to that bar, don’t you?!” Well, two days later when second day soreness hit, my ribs and abs ached, and my right shoulder was really really really sore. It was a busy week and guess what: I ignored it for a few days. Then guess what happened?
Wrist Pain Again
Interestingly enough, my shoulder was now ‘fine’, but my wrist was paying the price. It was really sore. Not wanting to bend to ninety degrees sore, no grip strength sore, no push or pulling sore. I was genuinely worried for about five minutes. My thoughts raced: I can’t have a non-functioning hand….I have an active job! I need my hand! After my thoughts ran away from me in a panic, something sticking out caught my eye. I looked over at my right shoulder, and I thought, ‘my goodness, what is it doing way out there in front of the rest of my body?’ Dummy. What happened as soon as I fixed that shoulder position?
The wrist was fine!
All was well, again.
What was the resolution with Mike and his knee?
Well, Mike tends to get super tight adductors (inside of the thigh) from running many miles during the week. If your adductors are tight, they can pull on their attachment points at the knees, causing knee soreness. The bigger problem is that adductors’ antagonist is my ever favorite glute muscle, and they get knocked out of the picture. If your glutes don’t work, your body will go above or below the joint to find the nearest neighbor to chip in and help. Usually the body goes above the joint, into the back, and that makes backs sore. Additionally, remember that muscles are just like people: they do their job AND someone else’s, and they will complain. Complaints= pain/tightness/stiffness/soreness.
Yuck to all of that; and completely reversible!
Have you ever figured out that your symptom wasn’t the cause? Tell your story here please, so that our loyal readers might benefit from your experience!