It has been a busy last couple of months with work, family and travel. One of the trips was back to Canada as a baseline to participating in a long term study dealing with concussion and the effects on health and brain function. In recent years the subject has gained much publicity with the struggles and deaths of a number of former NFL players, but is not restricted to the sport of football. Serious issues have been exposed in most contact sports like the NHL and the case of Derek Boogaard http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/sports/hockey/derek-boogaard-a-brain-going-bad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, the classic fighting sports such as boxing and even soccer http://abcnews.go.com/Health/soccer-player-diagnosed-cte-brings-sports-risks/story?id=22697477. Having played 12 seasons in the Canadian Football league there were numerous occasions when I had the hall mark signs of a concussion, including being knocked cold.
More on that study later when some of the results come back. What I have noticed, more relevantly to the everyday athlete of which I consider myself today, is the effects of years of physical abuse from football and improper mechanical movement of the body that create significant physical issues. In general, we are an accumulation of all the various stresses we have encountered over a life time of falls off swings and bicycles, sports, car accidents and, not intuitively, sedentarism.
In my second year in the CFL I fractured my fibula, tore ligaments and dislocated my right ankle. That injury took a full season to get back to a playing condition, but over the years, scar tissue, limited mobility and various other injuries have created compensations that have led to more chronic issues.
As I continued to run, lift and ride bikes with poor mechanics I have essentially accelerated the degenerative processes in certain areas and stressed the body in general. Yet the body is quite adaptable and early on these compensations seem insignificant and more often than not asymptomatic. Over time though, the frequency, duration and intensity of problems become greater and greater.
As a chiropractor I see the results of improper mechanicals, in particular forward head posture (FHP), that create bone spurs or arthritis in specific areas of the spine. Often people show up with neck pain, no acute trauma and a history of periodic episodes of symptoms that “resolved on their own” in the past.
Without addressing the mechanical issues of improper movement and alignment, the only guarantee is of continued decrease in function. This dysfunction creates a stressor on the body that negatively affects local joint motion, coordination of various body systems and psychological states. Proper movement is a nutrient to the brain. Just as proper global movement such as walking, running or climbing is essential to good health, so is segmental joint motion such as ankle, knee, hip and spinal joints.
Here in lies the issue. Can I currently walk, run, lift weights or cycle in a manner that promotes good health, or am I continuing to accelerate the degeneration and harm the health of my body with exercise?
Just as important, are you doing more harm than good with your current exercise regime? The truth is most people can’t honestly answer that question with a resounding no.
Don’t be too distraught as you are not alone. Is it any wonder that more and more people are showing up at their doctor’s office with torn rotator cuffs in their twenties, worn out cartilage in their knees in their thirties, fatigue in their forties and looking for joint replacement in their fifties? It is well agreed upon by the medical community that our bodies should last 120 -140 years, yet the average life span in the US is 78.8 as reported by the CDC, for many the last few years in some form of assisted living. Compound previous injury and abuse with a more sedentary lifestyles and you have a recipe for disaster.
Do you have the full range of motion to complete your workout without risking injury? A simple test is to stand with the feet hip width apart, toes pointed straight ahead, arms extended overhead, ideally holding a bar or piece of dowel with the hands placed slightly wider than shoulder width. Squat down as far as you can keeping the arms directly overhead. Chances are you will compensate in one or more ways to achieve a full squat: Feet will turn out, arches will collapse, heels will lift off the floor, knees will track inward, upper body will lean forward and arms will track in front.
This was my problem too. Compensations during my weight training created more and more knee, back and shoulder issues. So I have backed off from the weights, particularly heavy weights and focused on specific joint mobility exercises using, lacrosse balls, bands and body weight exercises to improve form and function. As my mobility increases I am gradually introducing more traditional lifting back in as I believe it is imperative to “lift heavy things” as part of a well-rounded health program. There is no inherent danger, even as we age, to lifting weights if done properly by a body functioning optimally. In fact resistance exercise is the best way to develop or maintain strong bones.
Central to all good programs is developing a stable core and to do this you have to address the spine and sacrum first.
This is where chiropractic fits in. By creating a coordinated, aligned spine the whole body is able to function as a unit and provide a safe, strong basis for proper movement the way we are genetically designed. No matter where you are on the health continuum there always exists the opportunity to improve function.
If you have concerns about exercise and your particular conditioning routine, or simply want to see how you may optimize your current level of health through chiropractic contact The Art of Chiropractic for an evaluation.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Doug Davies has been practicing the art of chiropractic for over 10 years and brings his skills to the downtown Gresham, OR area focusing on achieving and maintaining the innate lifestyle...