“The pain started in my neck, but last week my hip started hurting and now, my lower back is killing me…WHAT’S GOING ON?!?!”
I’ve heard this same question so many times in my office that I’ve started to give the answer to my patients on their very first day of treatment, before they even have the chance to ask!
When it comes to injures that have been sustained from a major trauma, such as a car accident, it is VERY common for the symptoms to change over the course of care. The reason this happens is twofold.
- Altered ambulatory kinetics
Say what??? Altered ambulatory kinetics is just a fancy way of saying “compensation”. Think of it this way, you’re in a car accident and your hip is injured by the belt strap on impact. You’ve got bruising and pain deep in the joint. You can’t walk without limping. Well, when you walk with a limp, every muscle in your body has to compensate in some way so you can get around.
That compensation means some muscles do less work than normal and some do more. Those muscles that do more work get cranky and sore (similar to going to the gym and exercising strenuously for a week after more than a year of not working out at all).
So it’s totally possible for that initial hip injury to eventually cause pain in the lower back or knee simply from forcing you to alter the way you walk.
- You’re actually feeling better
It may sound strange, but just follow me. Let’s say you’ve got neck and back pain. The intensity of your neck pain is 8/10 and your back pain is 3/10 with 10 being the worst. If that’s the case, you’re probably not really thinking much at all about the back pain because the neck pain is so bad! After a month of treatment your neck pain and back pain are both 3/10. Now all of a sudden you can really feel that back pain because the neck pain is doing much better. It can feel like the back pain is new, but it was there all along. The higher intensity neck pain was just masking it.