Ligaments as a Source of Pain and Suppressed Performance

Case of the Day – July 28th, 2015

Denver Pain and Performance Solutions clients — as our name implies — are evenly split into two broad categories: those who are seeking to eliminate acute or chronic pain and those who are have noticed mysterious declines in athletic performance. (In reality, these two groups coexist the vast majority of the time.) In both cases, one of the first and most important things we do is assess the function of the pelvic ligaments.

All too often, even among well-educated healthcare professionals, ligaments are viewed as inert structures that passively hold the skeleton in place. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we prove it to clients on a daily basis. While ligaments certainly do play a critical role in maintaining skeletal alignment, they also function as a communication network of sorts that directly and actively affects muscle activity. The pelvic ligaments in particular are important to assess due to their “core” location and strong relationships with muscles from the ankle all the way to the neck. If the pelvic ligaments are dysfunctional, clients can present with symptoms ranging from a susceptibility to ankle sprains to thoracic outlet syndrome. Even if pain is not present, dysfunctional pelvic ligaments are a major player in performance losses due to their tendency to cause shut-down in muscles throughout the body.

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How prevalent is this issue? We find dysfunction of the pelvic ligaments directly linked to pain and performance loss in 100% of our clients.

Most recently, we saw a young female athlete who had been suffering from chronic low back pain for 8 months. Our initial assessment showed an inability to fire the spinal erectors, glutes, hip adductors, hip abductors, hip rotators, hamstrings, and abdominals. Think that’s enough to cause a painful lower back and loss of performance? The protocol helped us identify the pelvic ligaments as a major culprit, so our corrections began there. After identifying and correcting dysfunctions in the inguinal, pubic symphysis, sacrotuberous, sacroiliac, and sacrospinous ligaments, the client was able to fire all previously weak muscles with very little effort. Her gait improved dramatically, and she reported feeling stronger and more stable than she had since her pain began.

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If you have experienced pain or weakness in the same muscles for long periods of time, despite corrective work that seems to create temporary improvement, there is a strong possibility that the actual issue is poor communication between the pelvic ligaments and the brain, leading to motor control deficits. In other words, the muscle problems are just a symptom of a deeper problem, and no amount of treatment targeting only the muscles will solve the problem permanently.