Long Term Consequences of Ignoring an Injury
Everyone gets aches and pains. It is considered a normal component of the aging process and accepted as part of life. What if I were to tell you that any chronic (long standing ) mechanical injury to a weight bearing joint complex which is made up of your spine, hips, knees, ankles, feet and their supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments will ultimately shorten your life. I realize that this is a pretty bold statement, but almost 40 years of practice has demonstrated it to be the truth and when you continue through this writing you will see the logic and truth behind the statement.
The body was fashioned in such a way as to maximize efficiency of movement and stress free mobility. In fact, the purpose behind the evolutionary structuring of the human body was to facilitate the movement required to search for food or avoid danger. Every weight bearing joint complex is structurally dependent upon the appropriate function of all the other weight bearing articulations. Proper knee mechanics for example is critically impacted by hip, ankle and foot function such that if any of the related component structures fail, the knee eventually breaks down. The same principles apply to all of the other component parts. We were designed as a magnificent moving machine with each component performing like an orchestra where each part complements and enhances the effectiveness of the others. When we take the time to think in these terms, the process is just logical.
Each and every one of us has either personally sustained, or know of someone who has suffered a severe injury to a knee, hip or ankle which has affected their ability to move efficiently. If unattended, almost without fail, within a relatively short period of time, they start to sense discomfort elsewhere. In my years of practice, I can’t count the number of incidences where patients will sustain substantial injury to a weight bearing joint that even slightly impacts the efficiency of walking and within a very short window of time they present with hip or lower back discomforts. In understanding functional mechanics, this becomes unfortunately logical and predictable. Where the process gets even more heinous is as the dysfunction spreads, it compounds the insult to the already compromised joint structure. This accelerates deteriorative changes such as arthritis and related soft-tissue breakdown and further increases the instability. It is a bit of a domino process. This is bad enough, but it gets worse.
As mentioned earlier, the keystone purpose of the human body is to facilitate efficient movement. If you look back through the evolutionary process and examine early examples of homo-erectus you see man in his most primitive adaptive state. Over time, you can see the evolutionary process at work as we continued to evolve and adapt to new challenges associated with our constantly changing environment. Consistent through it all were the ever-evolving improvements in mobility which have culminated in who we are today. We are quite simply engineered for movement. In fact, every facet of our health is impacted by the amount and quality of movement. Science is just recently starting to appreciate the collateral consequences of movement breakdown and the human body. Research is verifying the importance of efficient movement to health and vitality. Quite simply, the more efficient your movement, the more effectively you are in fighting off the impact of most of the diseases associated with aging. Scientific study has unequivocally established the link between mobility and cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health, obesity, impotence and almost every other chronic degenerative condition. The statement: “movement is medicine” has never been more the truth, with the opposite--movement restriction leading to a sedentary lifestyle being the recipe for reduced quality of life, disease and a statistical likelihood of premature death.
The adage of “move it or lose it” sadly is the truth. You cannot ignore any chronic injury because it will not ignore you. Mechanical breakdown is like a cancer. Untreated it will inevitably intensify and spread.