We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. –Albert Einstein
As human beings we are by definition dysfunctional. We are constantly striving to maintain integrity, balance and, efficiency. Before you accuse me of judging your character I am of course taking about dysfunctional movement and the fight to maintain joint integrity, movement balance and efficiency.
The body was built to perform a certain way; specifically each joint was designed to function in a particular way. Problems arise when a given joint(s) begin to do the jobs of their neighboring joints, also known as movement compensation. Compensation is defined as the attempts to offset ones shortcomings by the exaggerated exhibition of qualities regarded as desirable.
Where do you hurt? Everyone has some type of tweak whether it is very minor or quite significant. Think about it for a moment, where does your body first fatigue? Is it your ankle, knee, back, shoulder, all of the above? Now ask why? Identifying pain is the easiest process there can be but identifying why we are in pain can be an adventure that often times will take you down a long fruitless path to more of the same.
How many of you have claimed to have a bad (insert angry joint here)? So the claim is that the painful joint is indeed the problem and therefore we must either change activities/exercises/adjust lifestyle to regulate for pain or get treatment of affected joint i.e. therapy of some type. I am not here to refute the fact that you shouldn't do things that cause pain or that therapy is not useful but could it be that we are completely overlooking something.
For years we have been overlooking the problem by being distracted by the site of the pain rather than source. Unless a physician has specifically told you that you have a specific degenerative issue of a joint or some other medical diagnosis that surpasses the scope of this article this advice and approach applies to you! Stop looking at the joint that hurts, instead examine the joints above and below the area of pain.
As I stated joints are designed for specified functions. Depending on the desired movement of the body. Some joints are designed to resist movement and aide in stability of the body and its associated limbs during movement, while other joints are designed to give you fluid and full range of motion movements, otherwise known as mobility. When joints lose track of their identity and attempt to pick up the slack of other joints they become over-stressed, overworked and angry! Let's examine the ever so common issue of low back pain.
If someone comes to me with back pain can you guess the first thing I take a look at? Hint it's not their low back. I am after the cause of the pain not the source so I will first take a look at their hip function. Do they have adequate flexibility and mobility through the hip joint? Or are they moving through their lower back giving the illusion of adequate mobility. Are their hip muscles working in a way that controls and stabilizes the pelvis or are their lower back muscles always firing to try and do the job of the hip muscles? What about the upper back (thoracic spine), are they locked up in a hunchback, forward head posture which makes rotating and extending through the upper back impossible, leaving it once gain up to the low back to do a job it wasn't designed to do. So instead of chasing pain let's find the cause. If you can identify the problem you can find a solution.
Take home point: Don't assume, know. Just because a specific joint tends to bother you doesn't mean that joint was or is the cause of the pain.