Understanding Symptoms – The Victim and The Culprit
by Cassidy Cooney PT, DPT
AzOPT Buckeye Physical Therapist
Understanding the symptoms we experience can be frustrating and confusing. They tend to limit and bother the life in which we need and hope to participate in. It is, however, underappreciated how truly interconnected each tissue and region of the body. Not to say that your big toe pain is causing your neck pain, but there is secondary, tertiary, and quaternary changes that affect up and down body regions stemming from the initially dysfunctional tissue. This is extremely common with soft tissue that border each other. As we know, misery loves company (I make myself laugh at least).
When beginning your journey to recovery, it is important to recreate a best recollection of the initial symptom or problem. With injury or surgery, this is fairly simple. However, try to step back further to assess problems that may have been present long standing that may have caused perpetual and constant dysfunction. Aside from a random accident, there is almost always an underlying (often asymptomatic) problem.
Example: Understanding Your Knee Pain
A great example is knee dysfunction. The knee is just the middleman between the hip and ankle. Its function can be simplified to entail bending and extending, as well as participating in the acceleration and deceleration of the lower extremity chain. However, it is very common for the knee to be implicated by dysfunction at the foot, ankle, and hip. Let’s take a look at a few different examples of the knee that highlight the victim vs culprit phenomenon.
With all joints, there is a complex and intimate relationship of the ligaments, joint specific structures, and active tissues (musculature). Degradation of ligaments and meniscal integrity chronically creates general degeneration of the knee joint. Simply said, when these structures in a joint are damaged and torn, they allow gross stress to the muscles and the structures themselves. Any of these can become symptomatic, and ultimately be the primary generator of the symptoms we experience. However, they are just the victim of the dysfunction (culprit) occurring elsewhere.
The hip, if allowing too much or too little motion (many varieties and combinations of dysfunction), creates a stress at the knee. Similarly, issue at the foot or ankle (stiff or too loose/unstable) can lead to detrimental issues at the knee. The foot or ankle, as well as the hip, may not even develop any issues, while the knee (whether structural or muscle/soft tissue) may become significantly symptomatic. Remember, our bodies are designed to integrate and function when each joint performs their duties optimally.
Talk to an Expert to Understand Your Symptoms Fully
So, do know who is the victim and the culprit for what ails you? An external and expert perspective is essential to help you better understand your current symptoms so you can Live Better! Contact your nearest AzOPT location to schedule with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy. Our passion truly is to help you feel and function better.