Arm and hand pain causes: Structural asymmetries

Arm pain, Hand pain, Thumb pain, Wrist pain / Monday, December 14th, 2009

This is a series about the causes of arm and hand pain. If you missed the beginning, go back to the checklist. This is one of the most common perpetuating factors for chronic pain that I treat in my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston.

Whenever the skeleton is asymmetrical, the muscles are affected. Our bodies want to be in a state of equilibrium and have complicated systems to maintain that internal balance (homeostasis). That applies the musculoskeletal system as well. For example, if one leg is longer than the other, the shoulders tip. In response to that inequality, the muscles and their nerves (neuromuscular system) try to make adjustments to create balance. Since you can’t change the size of the bones, the muscles are always working to make them even. The extra work load adds stress with the result that the muscles eventually use up their energy and nutrient stores and become fatigued and tight. As that happens the muscles become less and less healthy, more dysfunctional and then painful.

Life puts many physical stresses on the muscles of the arms and hands so the extra work caused by asymmetries can be the spark that ignites the pain. Once Trigger Points have developed in muscles, even 1/8 inch difference in the length of the legs can be a perpetuating factor for pain according to the medical text by Travel and Simons, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. A Trigger Point is an area of hyperactivity and hypersensitivity in soft tissue that refers pain or other sensations away from the site. It takes a while to develop an area of dysfunction, so the increased work load stimulated by an asymmetry can cause or perpetuate a Trigger Point.

Other asymmetries that I look for in my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston can lead to pain in the arms and hands: scoliosis (curved spine), hemipelvic asymmetry (the two bones of the pelvis are uneven), Morton’s Foot Structure (long second toe), short upper arms (in proportion to back length).