You awake one morning and go to stretch out…. But OUCH! There’s a dull, nagging ache in your shoulder. You can’t remember bumping it on anything. You didn’t exercise your shoulders or anything. Why is it hurting? You let it go, take an Advil, and go about your day. This goes on for an entire week, and the pain is not going away. You decide it’s time to get it checked out.
If you have been our office, another chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage therapist that does any sort of soft tissue/muscle work, you have undoubtedly been told that you have some “scar tissue” building up, and it needs to be “broken up” to help relieve your pain. Sounds logical, right? Especially if you have a past injury in the area they’re working on. You know the cliché stories: I fell off a horse when I was 12, it’s an old high school football injury, my sibling knocked me out of a tree throwing rocks at me (ok, maybe that one is just me), but you get the idea.
But you HAVEN’T had an injury where you currently have pain. You woke up one day and you suddenly had pain and didn’t know why! How in the world could you have “scar tissue” there that’s hurting you!?
In the mid to late 2000’s, an anatomist by the name of Dr. Gil Hedley, PhD published a series of videos detailing the importance and extensive nature of this layer of tissue in the body we call “fascia.” Until people like Dr. Hedley and his likeminded colleagues began this work, fascia was mainly seen as a “covering” or casing of sorts for the body’s tissues; a layer of tissue between the skin and the muscles to keep them compartmentalized and to keep them from rubbing on one another. Dr. Hedley demonstrated in his dissection videos how this fascia can penetrate deeper into the tissues, weaving its way in between muscles, nerves, bone, and other tissues. He showed how strong the connections are, and how a force starting in one area of the body can be transmitted to other areas of the body via the fascial connections. A book was published in the 1990’s, Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers, that demonstrated the fascial connections all over the body described as “myofascial meridians” or lines.
So how does this all relate to your shoulder pain?
People like Dr. Hedley and Tom Myers’ research has shown us that injuries, chronic inflammation, and lack of movement can cause an accumulation of these fascial connections or “scar tissue” around your body’s tissues. Dr. Hedley calls it “The Fuzz”, but in our office, we describe it as Velcro. The Velcro accumulates every night while you sleep, making your tissues stick together. Muscles, nerves, bones, ligaments, and all kinds of different tissues can stick to each other. When you wake up and stretch, you peel apart that Velcro and your tissues move free again. Being in a bad posture/position, repetitive movements, chronic stress, and injuries are all ways this Velcro can accumulate faster than normal. When there’s TOO MUCH of the Velcro, that morning stretch doesn’t quite break all the connections. And the same process repeats the next morning… and then the next morning. Eventually, there is so much Velcro holding so many different tissues together, that it is limiting your range of motion and makes moving your shoulder painful.
So, now you’re in my office.
I’m taking your medical history, and you tell me that you’ve been a painter for 30 years and do a lot of over head work painting ceilings and walls. You sleep on your side every night, especially on the side of your affected shoulder because your wife is a bed hog and you don’t have much room. We test your shoulder range of motion, and it is much less than your other side. As you’re moving, I can feel the tissues around your shoulder and back tensing up much more than they should, and eventually I poke on multiple spots that are painful, and reproduce your pain.
You guessed it! “You have some ‘scar tissue’ building up, and it needs to be ‘broken up’ to help relieve your pain.” Specifically, between the axillary nerve and the deltoid muscle and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. But fascial connections from the upper back to the shoulder area are also contributing some extra stress to the area, making your pain worse! THAT is why the research of people like Dr. Hedley and Tom Myers are changing the way we treat your problems.
Yes, we are still chiropractors.
We believe in the power of the chiropractic adjustment to restore proper joint motion and decrease pain. But we also understand the importance of addressing the soft tissues AROUND that joint that could be contributing to your pain! Clinicians all over the world have developed different techniques to peel that Velcro apart and break the painful adhesions! In our office, Active Release Techniques (ART), Graston Therapy, chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, and massage therapy are all ways that we can break down that scar tissue, Velcro, “Fuzz”, or whatever you want to call it over the course of a treatment plan to relieve your pain. We teach you specific stretches and exercises to perform every day to keep tissues moving freely. We help you implement lifestyle alterations like using tools to make your painting easier or setting up an elaborate pillow barricade to keep your wife on her own side of the bed (think back to your pillow fort building days as a kid, you were training for this!), all in an effort to ensure that Velcro doesn’t return.
At Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine, we are using the most recent and best research and techniques to get you better, faster and keep you better long term!
If you are interested, take a peek at Dr. Hedley’s “The Fuzz” video below to get a true appreciation of what this stuff ACTUALLY looks like!
Dr. Gary Cervone