I have always been an athlete so I was no stranger to banging up my body, allowing it to heal and then going on to the next event. And then I had an injury that my body just did not want to heal from.
The “injury” itself is hard to pinpoint. I sprained my shoulder playing football when I was a teenager and I played lacrosse for more than a decade through high school and into college. But I didn’t have any lingering pain from those until I started spending long hours at a desk job and my upper back and shoulders started hurting more and more. Like a typical athlete, I did what I could to fight through the pain and go on with my day to day work, but I decided to seek help when my hands began to go numb toward the end of the day. This was something I figured I should not just try to fight through.
That’s when I started my journey through the medical system. I went to MDs, physical therapists, massage therapists, craniosacral therapists, osteopaths, rolfers, chiropractors… anyone I could find that could give me some relief to what was becoming debilitating back pain. Each practitioner gave me some level of relief, but the pain always came back within a few days until I found the one practitioner who knew what was going on.
It was an acupuncturist who, within 5 minutes, identified the root cause of the issue. The anterior muscles of my upper torso and neck (pecs, sternocleidomastoid and scalenes mainly) were overdeveloped and tight while my back muscles were weak and overstretched. These 2 issues combined with long hours sitting in front of a computer with poor posture were what caused the pain. He helped me release the tight muscles during our session and then gave me exercises for strengthening the weak muscles and that was it. 6 years of daily pain was figured out in less than an hour… I would not have believed it then, but that was about 5 years ago and I have not had back pain since.
The key that that acupuncturist looked for and found was the root cause of the issue. In Chinese Medicine, we think about disease and dysfunction metaphorically as having a root and branches. The branches are the symptoms: pain, digestive issues, acne, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. The root is what is causing the symptoms to occur. Most pharmaceuticals and western medicine in general are fantastic at identifying and treating symptoms, but fail at identifying and treating the root. This means that even if the symptoms improve, the underlying cause is still there and will probably cause issues in other ways.
In my case, even though many doctors and practitioners were able to affect my back pain for short periods of time, the pain always came back because none of them addressed the root cause of my pain. My muscles were out of balance causing an issue with alignment and pain. Once the balance was reestablished, the pain went away on its own.
I’ve made it my mission to help people find the root causes of their pain. Some I’ve found to be as simple as mine turned out to be (requiring austin dry needling, cupping and a focus on stress reduction) and others take more time to unravel and see change, but there is always something that can be done which I think is an important concept for people to be able to hold on to.