When talking about injuries there are 2 main types – acute and repetitive. Acute injuries occur following a single event, such as a fall or hard collision. Repetitive injuries, like the name implies, occur slowly over time as a result of performing the same motion over and over again.
Over time the soft tissues will become strained and fatigued, and can develop small amounts of injury known as micro-trauma. Simply stated, micro-trauma is very small scale damage that occurs in the muscles, fascia, and ligaments in response to small levels of strain. Initially this micro-trauma is not painful, but may be perceived as a mild ache or tightness in the muscles or at the heel where these muscles attach. Even though it is only small, this damage still needs to be repaired. The body responds to soft-tissue injury (including micro-trauma) by laying down small amounts of scar tissue to repair the injured tissue. Unfortunately, over time, this scar tissue will build-up and accumulate into what are known as adhesions. As these adhesions form, they start to affect the normal health and function of the muscles. In fact, they will often lead to pain, tightness, lack of flexibility, muscle weakness, compromised muscle endurance, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow. This places even further strain on the back muscles, which in turn leads to even more micro-trauma. Essentially a repetitive strain injury cycle is set-up causing continued adhesion formation and may eventually lead progressive joint dysfunction. At this point pain and tightness will often start to become noticeable.
As this repetitive strain injury cycle continues the ability of the muscles to meet the demands placed on them diminishes. At this point it is not uncommon for the muscles to give way and a more severe and debilitating pain occurs. In fact, many patients come into our office explaining how they have pain but they do not recall any specific incident or event that may have triggered the pain.