When we feel pain in an area of our bodies, our first instinct is to massage that area or apply a hot pack. The human body is like a puzzle, though, and a pain in the neck might actually be caused by a muscle attachment in the hip. Understanding these connections can help identify and treat pain in the body.
An attachment is simply the place where a muscle attaches to the bones. Each muscle group is encased in a thin membrane, and when areas of the muscles become sore or bunched, their areas of attachment can become strained and stressed, causing pain that then travels the length of these muscles. Sometimes these “knots” originate in an attachment and travel up the muscle to a seemingly unrelated area.
For example, say you are experiencing pain in your neck where your head rests.
You massage the base of your skull, stretch out your neck, and nothing seems to help. This pain may actually originate in an area of the trapezius muscle, a large, cape-like sheet of muscle that is one of the major muscles of the back. This muscle group is responsible for moving and stabilizing the scapula (the shoulder blades on your back) and attaches at the head of the shoulder bone as well as down along the spine. Any contractions or bunching along this significant muscle group can cause not only tenderness and pain wherever the knot is but also in areas of the head and neck.
Similarly, these muscle groups need to work together smoothly to prevent pain and injury. What we familiarly refer to as “pecs,” those large muscles that move across the front of the chest, are actually made up of 3 separate muscles with points of origin (attachments) all up and down the body from the clavicle to the second rib. These muscles work counter to the action of the trapezius muscles, helping to move the arms across the front of your body. Tension in any of these attachments can contract your body forward, making it difficult to stand correctly.
These 2 muscle groups are just the beginning. The latissimus dorsi is a huge muscle that attaches at the base of the spine all the way up to the shoulder blade. Any constriction or tension anywhere in this is bound to have repercussions all the way up the spine and down the legs, including impacts on the sciatic nerve.
To look more deeply at the muscles of your body and how they are all connected, take a look at this interactive tool that highlights each area and gives you more information on not just the muscles but also other systems in the body!
Image by University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences via Flickr