One of the most common questions we get as chiropractors is, “What caused my pain to start?” While the answer can be multi-faceted and almost impossible to know for sure, years of experience as a sports chiropractor has led me to believe that there is a common thread for most injuries and pain. Regardless of where the pain is, it can be in the foot or in the elbow for example, most pain and injuries are due to a lack of core stability and coordination. Here is why I think that is.
Core stability and coordination is the foundation for all movement. If we can’t stabilize our core to move, then we must stabilize something else further down the chain to be able to produce movement. For example, when you move your fingers what does your wrist do? When you move your wrist up and down, what does your elbow do? When you move your elbow, what does your shoulder do? The latter is always stable to allow for the former to move. As we go up the chain we get closer and closer to the middle. Now imagine that the middle is not able to stabilize efficiently. This will create more of a burden for the areas further down the chain to make up for the core’s inability to stabilize correctly and can create pain and injury the longer this goes on.
I commonly see elbow injuries in my practice since I have many patients who are baseball or softball players. It is not that difficult to help with an athlete’s elbow pain if the cause is an overuse injury, but WHY is the elbow being overused? Did the player throw more pitches than normal? Did the player swing abnormally hard during a practice over and over again? If it is unknown why the pain started, we’re likely looking at a deficiency in movement mechanics caused by a stability issue in the shoulder/scapula and core. If these issues are not addressed adequately, the elbow will continue to be “overused” and the player will have a chronic cycle of pain. We must look to the foundation of movement, the core and the middle, to make sure we are functioning optimally there first or everything else will be tasked with the burden of making up for the deficit.
Here is a simple exercise to improve your core stability and coordination. Sit on a chair and place your hands around your low midsection. Place your thumbs in your back with your fingers wrapped around the front. Now, try to create an outward pressure into your thumbs, your fingers, and the sides of your hands all at the same time. It should feel like a balloon is expanding from your diaphragm. If you do not feel any pressure in one of those areas, you likely have a core activation/coordination issue. Practice it daily and get assessed by a trained sports chiropractor to help fix your issue even faster so you don’t have an overuse injury somewhere else along the chain due to compensation.