Are you treating the symptom or the cause?

So over the past few weeks I’ve been having a number of consults coming my way with some form of joint issues (recently it’s been a lot of shoulder problems). Now when I have a person with a joint issue ask for help I’ll usually do a movement screen and what really gets the person is that I typically DON’T spend a lot of time looking at the joint that’s in pain… instead I’m assessing everything else around it.

Let me clarify a bit. I had a phone call with a gentleman that was diagnosed with bursitis. A quick anatomy here: the bursa is a small fluid filled sack in the joint area that helps cushion and lubricate the joint during movement. In the shoulder it typically resides at the edge of the clavicle right above the humorous (arm bone). Bursitis is caused by either infection or irritation of the bursa sac; after an MRI infection was ruled out for him. Now whenever I hear someone has bursitis in their shoulder I don’t even look at that area of the shoulder, instead I look at the muscles and movements AROUND the shoulder joint. Simple reason is that bursitis is a SYMPTOM… other words something in the body is constantly rubbing and irritating the hell out of it.

So this blog isn’t about shoulder issues (we could write books on that) but instead about fixing causes and not symptoms with exercise. We’ve all of head of this before; when you get sick with a cough that’s typically a symptom of something else going on. If you’re going through car tires in half the time they are rated for its can probably means that you suck at driving or your alignment is off. In both of those cases we could spend time taking medicine to fix the cough or buy new tires but eventually the same thing is going to happen or in fact worse.

In health if someone is overweight it’s not the fat that is the problem (that statement can be argued I know), the body fat is a symptom of something else going on, medical or most likely life style. If a joint hurts it’s probably not the joint but a muscle that’s attached to the joint or even further away, if you’re missing a big lift it can be lack of strength of an accessory muscle or a technique flaw.

So the question I want you to ask if your noticing something in the gym that’s not going the way you want it, a joint hurts or you’re not losing the weight you want take your gaze away from that and look around. Think if what you’re experiencing is a cause or is there something else that’s not letting you get the results that you want. If you need help determining this talk to a professional! This will save you more time and head ache than you can even phantom in the beginning; so find someone that has been through or specializes in what you are dealing with.

***A quick side note: with that being said I don’t want this mentality to turn into blaming something else game. Ultimately it’s your body and you have more control over it than you may realize so that gives you the ability to fix what you feel may be the cause of your concern.

So is it a Symptom or a Cause?

The next question you going to wonder about is what your experiencing a symptom or a cause…? Well I’ll make it easy for you. If your trying to treat it and its not getting better or it keeps coming back then its a symptom. If your running into this with ANYTHING I recommend seeking a professional, I promise it will get better much faster 🙂



In Health and Fitness,




Travis Merritt, BS, CPT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

P.S. – If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends using the social media buttons below.

P.P.S. – Please ask a question or share a comment with us in the Leave a Comment section at the very bottom of the page.  We love your feedback and will use it to develop future blog posts.