Bodybuilders live by the credo ‘No pain, No gain!” It’s true that to make gains one must push past limits into lactic acid build-up, oxygen debt and muscular failure – aka ‘pain’. This is usually good pain. But too often we repeat the same movements over and over again, train heavy without warming up properly, and use poor form. This leads to high amounts of stress and wear and tear on out joints, often leading to injury and/or ‘bad’ pain.
Compounding this is what we do outside the gym. Sitting all day at a desk job or doing the same motions repeatedly also stresses our joints. Soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments and muscles often shift due to long term patterns of movement or lack thereof.
Nothing can derail progress in the gym faster than pain. Pain literally makes you weaker by inhibiting the contractile ability of muscles. You can’t grow or improve performance if you don’t work out hard enough to stimulate hypertrophy. Bodybuilders often make it worse by masking the pain, taking pain killers or anti-inflammatories, which provide short term benefit with serious long term consequences. Even that extra long warm up we do is another attempt to mask the problem because after prolonged stimulation nerve cells for pain don’t fire as much and out pain goes away. But the damage and injury they are trying to warn up about pervades.
But it gets worse. Pain can literally kill you. Pain is often associated with injuries, and whether they are old or recent injuries, the resulting changes in joint integrity set off a cascade of events in the body. For example, your knee hurts so you don’t do cardio as much and over the years your heart, body fat, and other systems reflect this – you literally have aged faster. Not to mention looking worse, which affects self esteem, furthering the circle of decline as many people give up and accept their plight.
Most of us have a basic understanding of joint health. We warm up properly (elevating core body temperature is the key here), do a few light sets before we hit out work sets. We also stretch, preferably after we train when it’s most critical. Many of us also take joint nutrients like glucosamine sulfate, chondroitan sulfate, MSM, EFA’s and vitamin C. There are other nutrients for joints like SAMe, Cetyl Myristoleate and collagen. But often we don’t know or actively do enough to prevent injuries, especially as we get older and the cumulative abuse begins to add up – in essence precipitating an injury.
Well, the good news is you don’t have to. There are many things we can do to battle this issue. From novel therapies such as Egoscue, Rolfing, and Active Release, to aggressive supplementation, self treatment such as more intense stretching, and new developments in medications, hope is on the horizon.
I know personally that injuries can cripple us both physically and emotionally. I tore my anterior-cruciate ligament in my knee racing motorcycles. The surgeon stapled the ligament back to my tibia, only to have the ligament grow around the staple, preventing its removal. To make matters worse, I tore my vastus-medialis oblique (VMO) - that tear drop muscle above the knee, in the same leg, in a snowboarding accident. Of course being an intensity junkie, noting stopped me, I kept training and doing extreme sports. The years of running, lifting and snowboarding made that staple migrate inside my knee to the back of the joint – encapsulated in a ball of scar tissue, right next to nerves and blood vessels. Another surgery revealed this and the same surgeon claimed it was too dangerous to remove, and that I had very little cartilage left and would need a joint replacement in a few years. My patella has grown very large due to poor patella-femoral tracking, my vmo is torn, and I have so much scar tissue inside the joint, besides that metal clip, that when I bend the knee the scar tissue bulges out from the sides! That was 8 years ago but I am still managing to keep up an active lifestyle, although I can’t run. But the pain is debilitating; and it takes me 30 minutes at least of warming up for the pain to subside enough for me to train. My right quad is now noticeably smaller and the shift to favoring my left leg has made that side much tighter, which also shifts my hips. The shifting hips could also be a factor in why I am getting shoulder pain as well.
Healing for Injuries
Supplements: a core belief I have is that aggressive use of the right supplements can have therapeutic effects on the relevant issue. There is enough evidence in the scientific journals to support this conclusion, and it seems to have helped me. In my case, I have or currently use large amounts of the following:
SAMe: 400-600 mg/day
MSM: 2000 – 4000 mg/day
Vitamin C: 3000 – 12,000 mg/day
Glucosamine/Chondroitan Sulfate: 1500- 3000 mg/day
Curcumin: 1000 – 2000 mg/day
Omega 3 Fats: 4000- 9000 mg/day
In addition, topical use of DMSO post exercise along with ice has helped. DMSO is a powerful free radical scavenger, and free radicals are produced in high amounts when tissue becomes inflamed. I have even read that some hard core do-it-yourself doctors have run liquid DMSO through a sterile filter, and injected it directly into the joint. While I don’t recommend this, I do think if done successfully it could help. I have had intra-articular injections done by doctors for cortisone, and glucosamine sulfate, and they both helped. SAMe is also available in sterile liquid for injection. SAMe is a powerful nutrient that helps joints make new cartilage by promoting the migration of cells that produce cartilage to the outermost regions of the bone where this cartilage is needed
Novel Therapies: One such novel therapy is the Eqoscue Method. Founded by Peter Eqoscue, it’s the epitome of ‘thinking outside the box’ in that they think “outside the joint.” If your knee is bothering you, they will look at your entire body to see the relationship between the various components of your body and how they relate to your knee pain.
Usually injuries are what lead’s to pain, although micro-trauma can also eventually cause it as well. Micro-trauma is small, imperceptible injuries in a joint or connective tissue that do not heal properly or lead to the formation of scar tissue.
I have tried all types of treatments for my injuries including seeing an orthopedic physician, chiropractic medicine, physiatry, prolo-therapy, active release, massage, and aggressive nutrition supplementation. I figured I had nothing to lose by trying Eqoscue, so I committed to it.
My first call to Pete was very interesting. Pete has consulted with many well known figures, including U.S. Presidents such as Gerald Ford. As an anatomical functionalist - a therapeutic practitioner who concentrates on musculo-skeletal function Peter sees hundreds of casualties from what is called "compensatory motion" every week
More than two decades ago, he made an observation that is now the cornerstone of what he calls the Egoscue Method: the human body - bones, muscles, every system and subsystem - is designed to maintain itself through motion.
The body is designed on the basis of parallel vertical and horizontal lines forming 90-degree angles. The verticals run down the right and left sides of the body through the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet. The horizontals go right to left through the pairs of shoulder, hip knee and ankle joints. It's a grid. When the 90-degree angles are violated, the structural integrity of the body is compromised.
Modern living does not provide enough motion and - most important - enough of the proper motion to keep the body fully fit, totally functional and pain free. The body is so efficient that when a muscle is not being used, it is literally shut down, put on hold.
I asked Peter what unique advantage the Egoscue method had over other forms of therapy. The first thing that caught my attention was Peters concern for the individual, in this instance, me. When I told Peter I was calling to research Egoscue Method for an article I was writing, he expressed support for my desire to write, but told me he could care less about the article or what I wrote. His main concern was my personal story, the pain I was experiencing. You have probably never heard of the Egoscue Method because they don’t have a formal marketing plan. Most of their success is word of mouth or when writers like me happen to write about them.
Peter professes not to be an expert, just someone who knows what pain is. I was going to ask him what advantages his method has over others forms of therapy, but he addressed this issue before I had a chance to ask. ‘Health care is inclusive, not exclusive’ he relayed. To Peter, the idea of one modality having exclusivity in health care is an unhealthy monopoly. Many forms of therapy have utility in a truly holistic model.
So called experts will tell you the condition of the joint mandates the type of treatment. To these experts, it’s the ‘what’ of the joint that determines treatment. The question to be asked is the ‘why’? My problem was an arthritic knee. The knee is one of the major load joints. Peter has found if the joint is loaded properly, THE CONDITION of the joint doesn’t matter.
According to these so called ‘experts’, the ‘what’ of the joint mandates the treatment. They don’t care why, and only treat the what. How qualified are these experts? A recent study sheds light on experts – Duke University published a study that concluded for the $26 billion we spend on back pain in this country, no conventional therapy really works. They qualified this by saying that pain does not necessarily mean damage is occurring.
Peter stated that the public is trained to believe our bodies are beyond our own abilities to understand them. We are inculcated to be disempowered. Peter encouraged me to stop being a good patient; that “your success depends on you being engaged in your therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from those treating you, to actively participate in your progress. You need to be convinced that the therapy is right, in essence to ‘sell out to yourself’. Only then will you have no fear and uncertainty.”
After my first appointment at the local Egoscue clinic (www.Egoscue.com ), I went to the receptionist to schedule another visit. “How do you feel?” she asked. “I definitely feel a difference, but I am very skeptical.” I replied, having run my course of many alternative therapies with little success. “Yea, that’s typical here. Most people come in here skeptical and angry. ” She replied. Angry because apparently people are fed up of trying everything under the sun with little or no success. It seems Egoscue is the last stop for many, who usually accidentally stumble on it. Yet for most, it seems to be a success.
Some have told me that often your belief in something working is a powerful factor in it working. Well, I didn’t believe in Egoscue, but I did feel it working. And I felt it immediately. The shift in my posture and walk after the exercises was very noticeable.