It’s the holy grail of healthcare. How to turn back the effects of time on your body so that it doesn’t wear out and / or “groan” from the cumulative strain of a lifetime of life forces.
Imagine ageing without any associated physical pain. To contemplate such a possibility is almost absurd.
And yet, in theory and proven in real life, this possibility can become reality.
An Amazing Story About an Amazing Person
Let me explain.
May presented for treatment of her lower back pain at the age of 98. From her assessment, it was clear that May experienced back pain when she was sitting. Consequently, I recommended that May place a lumbar roll (back cushion) in the small of her back while she was sitting.
May then informed me that none of her chairs had a back on them as she only sat on stools. In other words, the cause of May’s lower back pain was the fact that she sat on stools with a slouched posture. Once corrected, her pain resolved within a couple of weeks.
It was then that I asked May “How would you like never to have to go into hospital or into a nursing home for the rest of your life?” to which May replied “Yes please”.
So we set about implementing a treatment program that would address and counter all the physical effects of ageing – the stooped posture, the specific muscle imbalance, joint stiffness, loss of balance and the faulty performance of everyday activities.
And you know what? We achieved it! Who would have thought that I would be treating May on and off for another 10 years. In that time, she never went to hospital (except for unrelated non-physical conditions) and never went to a nursing home (except for occasional respite).
Even more amazing was that May never had a hip replacement, nor a knee replacement and up until the last month of her life, she was still going out and playing bingo three times a week and catching up with her grand-children and their friends every Saturday for lunch.
What’s more, May lived at home independently at home until she passed-away surrounded by her family and friends.
It’s an incredible story about an incredible person. For me it was an absolute privilege and a great learning lesson.
Now, you might say that May had great genes and that might be the case. But, I like to think that the treatment program that we implemented also positively impacted May’s physical health so that she could stay mobile, independent and be able to perform her every day activities without limitation or pain.
Her story changed my perspective that getting old didn’t have to mean becoming disabled and dependent.
How could it be possible though to live to 108 and not need a joint replacement, let alone remain active and independent?
The Secret to Preventing, Reversing or At Least Slowing Ageing
The answer has to do with your body’s ability to heal and adapt to physical forces.
You see, your body is constantly changing with the forces being applied to it. Apply force that is within your body’s physiological limits and it will adapt positively by getting stronger, more resilient and / or more flexible. Apply forces that are outside its physiological ability to cope, it will cause breakdown of tissue. Apply no force and your body will waste away.
Your body actually lays down tissue wherever and whenever stress is applied and removes tissue whenever stress is taken away. Stress muscles, they get bigger. Remove stress from muscles, they get smaller. That is why it is often said “use it or lose it”.
The key to preventing, reversing or at least slowing osteoarthritis and the “ageing” of joints has to do with a concept called “The Path of Instantaneous Centre of Rotation”.
Many of the joints in your body are “ball and socket joints”. One end of the bone is like a ball that fits inside the hollow socket of the adjacent bone. And what “The Path of Instantaneous Centre of Rotation” means is that the axis around which the ball moves is perfectly located in the centre of the socket at any and every instant, no matter what position the joint is in or what movement your body is performing.
In this scenario, your prime mover muscles act like guidewires, pulling on your bones to move your body whilst your stabilizing muscles constant, precise tension keeps your joints in optimal alignment.
If one muscle is used more often as with performing a routine movement, it is likely to get stronger and pull earlier than the surrounding muscles. Likewise, if you stretch soft tissue for 20 minutes such as if you adopt a slouched posture, it will take at least 40 minutes for that tissue to regain its normal, pre-stretch characteristics.
Both these “adaptive” processes lead to muscle in-coordination, faulty bony alignment, joint stiffness or instability, inflammation and tissue breakdown. Once this process has begun, it is perpetuated and reinforced as these postures and movements become habits.
On the other hand, a variety of stresses such as what occurs with different postures and movement patterns, leads to ideal joint alignment and muscle balance.
Think about it this way. Imagine that your spine is the rim on a bicycle wheel and the spokes are your muscles. Pull too hard on one of the spokes and the rim is pulled out of shape. To pull the rim back into alignment, you need to tighten the loose spokes and loosen the tight ones.
How to “Reverse” Ageing
The same is true for your body. To “pull” your body back into ideal alignment, you need to tighten (strengthen) the loose muscles and loosen (stretch) the tight ones.
Likewise, your stiff joints need to be “freed up” with hands on techniques and your unstable or hypermobile (excessively mobile joints) need to be stiffened through the use of taping, bracing or by improving the control of your stabilising muscles.
Therefore, if you know the degrading effects of ageing (just have a look at the elderly people around you), then it becomes obvious what joints you need to free up (e.g. back, hips, knees and ankles), what muscles you need to strengthen (e.g. mid and lower back, gluteal and calf muscles) and what postures and movements (e.g. sitting, standing, squatting, walking) that you need to correct to reverse this process.
To reverse the ageing means to reverse this process of becoming stooped, stiff and dysfunctional. To achieve this isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does take a disciplined and graduated program of “hands on” techniques, specific muscle training and posture and functional movement correction.
No one technique or facet of treatment or training will achieve this end result by itself. It must involve a sustained, coordinated approach for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
Why? Because it takes at least 4 weeks for muscles to strengthen and for new posture and movement habits to form.
Do You Have a Software or Hardware Problem?
Having said all of this, you might be unable to achieve ideal forces on your body, simply because of the way that your body is.
You may have been born with one of many physical variations such as a long leg, a twisted spine, a bent back, a flat back, a Pidgeon chest, curved shin bones, high arched or flat feet.
In this case, you have a hardware or structural problem and no amount of treatment or training is going to absolutely correct this. Treatment and training may help bring your body back within normal limits, but it will never “perfect” your body’s\ alignment or mechanics.
For a structural problem, you need a structural solution such as an orthotic, a brace and sometimes even surgery. Although, in most cases, it is safer, cheaper, safer and more effective to start with the least invasive approach first. Surgery should be the last option when all else fails.
These structural variations may be genetic and therefore may be something that you can’t do much about.
However, in many cases, you may have a software problem. By this I mean that it may be a your core stability, body co-ordination, posture and movement habits as well as your diet, self-identity, perception and / or your way of thinking that lead to physical pain and ageing.
Left untreated for long enough and these software problems can become hardware problems as your body adapts to life forces and these adaptations become fixed.
This is why it is always better to be seen earlier rather than later and to have a complete and professional physical and functional examination to determine causes and identify sources of your pain and / or dysfunction.
How you age to a large extent is up to you. What will you choose? To stay active, independent, involved and connected or to become disabled, dependent and dysfunctional.
The choice is yours.
I hope that this helps.
If you have any questions or would like any advice, instruction or perhaps a complimentary, no obligation physical or injury assessment, please call 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).
In the meantime, I wish you the best of health and life.
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For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the CDM (Chronic Disease Management) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).
References Available on Request