When muscle pain is an indication of a much bigger issue

With the NFL season in full swing, many football fans and fantasy players have taken notice of New England Patriot’s Rob Gronkowski’s lack of performance this year.  He blames his hamstring.  But here’s the thing — the hamstring injury is probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. In other words, there are so many underlying issues that are causing Gronk’s hamstring pain that if he only treats that specific injury, he will not be addressing the real, more serious problems.

With any injury, it is important to uncover the underlying cause behind it.  This is typically easy to do with acute injuries — like banging your knee after taking a fall — because we know where the pain came from. But for most other injuries, it's harder to immediately find the cause. Here’s how that scenario usually plays out: You were doing some sort of activity (running, walking, sitting at work or even just brushing your teeth) but then you felt a pain that seemingly came out of nowhere.

But it didn't come out of nowhere. When you injure yourself, your body will first make small adjustments in order to keep up with daily demands and mask the pain. Overtime, your body eventually gives up altering it’s mechanics and that’s when you feel that "surprise" pain. 

Let’s use pain in the hamstring as an example. First, you want to address the hamstring to calm your pain, but if you just stop there, I can almost guarantee that the issue will resurface. You will wind up injuring the site over and over again until it can no longer be fixed.  I have seen this happen many times to all levels of athletes suffering from many different injuries.  And Gronk could be in the same situation if he is not careful. 

There are A LOT of clues as to why Gronk has a hamstring injury. If you watch him run, he has a heel strike pattern, which means when his front leg hits the ground, it hits heel first.  Every time he does this, he is actually slowing himself down and putting a tremendous amount of strain on his hamstring.  It’s like he’s hitting the breaks.

Gronk needs a specialist who will look at the structure as a whole and analyze every aspect of how he moves to diagnose the underlying problem. They will look at how the bones and ligaments around his hamstring are positioned and also investigate muscle imbalances. The goal is to find the reason that the muscle failed and make the appropriate changes to address it. After a specialist treats Gronk’s hamstring pain and corrects any structural damage, they will likely help him fix his running form. 

The takeaway: Don’t be so quick to brush off pain. 

The video below demonstrates some initial steps to take at home when you start to feel pain to help minimize the severity of an injury but this will not solve it.

Taking away the pain is not the whole answer because in the long run it will cost you time and money to keep fixing the same injury without solving the underlying problem.