How many of you have used the phrase “getting old sucks” when talking about the aches and pains you experience? What if I told you aches and pains are not a part of getting old and your brain has the power to change your body?
When we experience aches and pains, our body is letting us know that something isn’t quite right. Being proactive about your painful symptoms will decrease the rate of degeneration and injury over time. Ignoring these signs will lead to an increased rate of degeneration and the risk of injury over time.
Pain, tightness, and lack of mobility are all signs of a much bigger picture. Abnormal joint pressures causing osteoarthritis are due to tight muscles surrounding the joint. The tight muscles around the joint area due to overusing these muscles over time. This would be considered a compensation due to weakness in the antagonist or opposite muscle group. But what controls the use of these muscle groups? The brain of course. Let’s break this down.
The brain fires muscles in sequential and habitual patterns that are learned throughout our life. From birth, most of these motor patterns are perfect, or we wouldn’t roll over for the very first time. As we grow older, our environment (injuries, desk job, lifestyle, school) gets in the way and messes up our once perfect motor patterns. Next, the adaptation phase kicks in and ingrains a compensating movement pattern because of overuse/underuse. Understand when one muscle group is overused, its antagonist or opposite muscle is inhibited, neurologically, from use. This is also true in the opposite direction. If a muscle group is never used, the opposite muscle becomes highly facilitated. This can easily be observed in stroke patients. If we have faulty movement patterns, we generate overuse/underuse which is the basis for all acute and chronic injuries that are non-traumatic.
The goal? Do not ignore tightness, pain, lack of mobility, or any other abnormal symptom. Understand that the brain is in control and unless the movement pattern is fixed, your problem will always come back. It’s also important to understand that any intervention that focuses on the joint, muscle, tendon, ligament alone would be considered Band-Aid care. Band-Aid care focuses on the painful symptom but never fixes the cause. Examples would be massage, dry needling, adjustments, stretching, steroid injections, single-joint exercises, PRP, etc.
Staying youthful is an art. If it were easy then 1 in 2 Americans wouldn’t have a musculoskeletal condition. Your goal is to decrease the risk of injury and degeneration over time and not rely on Band-Aid care to temporarily get you out of pain. Use your pain as a warning sign, not an adage of getting old. Continue to excel at doing the things you love, and don’t fearfully wait until your body cannot handle the task.
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