We all want to know “why am I in pain” or “why can’t I do the things I love without paying for it the next day?” When searching for answers we commonly look for the traditional diagnosis such as rotator cuff pathology, degenerative disc disease, tension headache, plantar fasciitis, and patellar femoral pain syndrome just to name a few. However, the traditional diagnosis is like skipping ahead in a book and just reading the final chapter to get the answer. You end up missing all of the important information that leads up to the ending. By skipping ahead to the last chapter you are going to be confused and not understand the ending of the book, the same can be said for our bodies. That is where the functional diagnosis comes into play; it is the middle of the book that helps tie everything together so the ending can make sense.
While a diagnosis can provide a patient with ease of mind, you can never fully tackle the problem if you don’t understand the underlying causes. On the other hand it is extremely frustrating when a traditional diagnosis cannot be made, and that is where a functional diagnosis can help answer questions. A functional diagnosis breaks down individuals’ movement and looks through a different lens to see what is causing the pain. Often the source of the problem isn’t located where the individual is experiencing pain. We have to take a step back and look at the big picture, and not be blinded by pain.
Furthermore, we cannot rely solely on what diagnostic imaging (x-ray, MRI) shows to make a diagnosis. Dr. James Andrews a well know sports medicine orthopedist, wanted to test his theory that MRI scans may be a bit misleading. He performed an MRI on 31 healthy professional baseball pitchers who had no pain and were not injured. What he found was 90% had abnormal shoulder cartilage and 87% had abnormal rotator cuff tendons. Dr. Andrews is quoted as saying “If you want an excuse to operate on a pitcher’s throwing shoulder, just get an MRI.” Diagnostic imaging is very beneficial especially at helping to confirm a diagnosis after an exam reveals a possible diagnosis. Imaging should be used as a piece of the puzzle not the sole determining factor.
Stuart McGill, a leading expert of the low back, states that the pain source for most low back pain sufferers usually stems from a functional issue. If we have poor strategies for how we move over time that can become the pain generator. That’s why it is so important to take a step back and look at other areas besides just the painful area to find the source of the problem. Once you start chasing pain you are going to get lost.
Using movement to look at individuals function will help to find the causes of the traditional diagnosis. Not only does a functional diagnosis help determine the source of the problem, but gives you the ability to come up with a game plan for treatment and not just cover it up with a band-aid. It’s time to stop skipping to the final chapter and read the whole book to better understand what is going on.
If you ever have any questions or would like a free consultation please contact TROSS today!TROSS proudly serves the Cottleville, St. Peters, St. Charles, O’Fallon, and St. Louis communities.
- McGill, S. (2015). Back mechanic: The step by step McGill method to fix back pain. Waterloo, Ont.: Backfitpro.