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Move It or Lose It!

I’ve always loved the adage, “Move It or Lose It!” - and as I have grown as a healthcare practitioner, it has become a central pillar of my way of thinking about how to help and support my patients.

“Move It or Lose It” is SO true, on many levels.  The human body actually needs movement as a form of nutrition - the body and its systems are always in motion, and they should be.  The opposite of movement is statis, and a synonym for statis in a dynamic system like the human body is death.  Your blood moves, your lungs draw in air and move it out, your gastrointestinal muscles move food and waste through your body, nerve impulses move through your body constantly - and at a microscopic level, cells move fluid in and out, the inner components of your cell move to create proteins from your DNA...  and your individual atoms move, too!  In the human body, movement is life, and less movement is less life.  

As we get older, we accumulate the effects of injuries - a sprained ankle here, a rotator cuff injury there - it’s fairly inevitable to sustain insults to the body, if you’re living life right! Our bodies heal these injuries as best as possible, forming an adaptive solution that works at the time.  But what if these injuries don’t heal *optimally*?  I sustained a pretty severe sprain of my left ankle in October, for instance.  I never stopped walking on it, though I did use a brace.  Did it heal as well as possible?  And if not, could that inhibit my future ability to Move It, resulting in me Losing It? (LOL for those of you who know me well, just don’t even go there!)

In terms of healing these injuries we accumulate over time - What’s possible?  Hopefully, complete restoration of function is possible, though sometimes it is not, in which case we pursue the best adaptation that IS possible.  Using my own case: I need my ankle in great shape for the next 40 years or so, so my hope and expectation is optimal healing!  Therefore, how do I measure functional restoration, on myself?  Well, my approach is to measure my ankle’s ability to handle challenge.  How it “feels” is important, absolutely, but how it FUNCTIONS is far more important in the long run.  My method for measuring functional restoration and healing for my own ankle has been to observe my stability and performance in yoga (side note: I’ve been a regular practitioner for eight years, approaching my 350th class at New Hampshire Power Yoga!).  

After due diligence on my injury (we took Xrays to confirm that it was not fractured, and I ordered a bracing support appropriate for the level of injury) I started my own functional rehab.  For me, this was getting my ankle adjusted (and associated structures...  the ankle does not function in isolation) to restore its normal position and movement, as measured by palpation and range of motion before and after adjustment.  (Thank you Dr. Johanna Newbold!) Second in line was a rehab exercise I have used before - balance sandals, they’re a lot like mini Bosu balls under each foot - to restore my brain’s awareness and control of ankle stability and movement.  And third in line was returning to yoga.

My first yoga practice after the injury was two weeks out.  I couldn’t even bend my ankle to achieve child’s pose.  And I almost fell over simply getting into warrior one!  But, the purpose of the first practice was not perfection, it was to measure my functional status as a baseline to observe improvement.  My functional baseline was fairly laughable!  While I can normally progress through the practice’s balance poses with focus and effort, I could not even stand on my injured ankle without the support of my uninjured ankle.  (As a control for the experiment, all of the balance poses performed on my right ankle were within normal limits, therefore I was capable of these poses, but my left ankle was not!)

Inevitably, healing takes time.  For the record, I hate that, too!  So it seemed reasonable to expect stepwise progression of improvement of balance on my left foot during yoga.  I continued get the ankle adjusted to restore proper position and movement to the destabilized (sprained) but healing structure, continued to do stretching and balance sandal exercises, and continued to gently challenge my body with weekly yoga classes.  This past week, eight week post-injury, I was able to achieve all of my balance poses on my left ankle with minimal failure.  There’s still progress to be made, but by my functional measures, healing is moving forward and headed in the right direction!

What’s the greater importance of PROPER FUNCTIONAL healing?  Well, if you hit a pothole with your car’s tire and misalign it ever so slightly, it may “work” without obvious symptom of compromise, but the damage will appear progressively and will destroy the tire (and suspension, etc) over time.  That said, this case is more complicated in the human body, because our position and movement is controlled reflexively by the brain - and the brain will adapt (or maladapt) to injuries or asymmetries.  It’s like the Princess and the Pea - the brain really can sense the pea (or the ankle that’s not positioned or moving correctly) and will adapt the body’s position and movement accordingly to find the best solution possible (this is a concept called Foundation Principle).  Unfortunately, that maladaptive solution will create stresses elsewhere - if you’ve ever played Jenga, you know that! 

In the case of my ankle, optimal healing was a functional necessity in order to preserve my ability to do everything else I love without incurring further injury / maladaptation.  I live by the adage above, Move it or Lose it - and anything less than optimal healing could inhibit my ability to do what it takes to keep my body moving and healthy, and enjoying what I love (hiking, skiing, paddleboarding, yoga...)  The time to take corrective action is NOT after you’ve lost your ability to do what you love - it’s NOW, as a form of more preventative rather than reactive care.  And I’ll tell you now, having had to previously go through the “pound of cure” myself in my early 30s after fifteen years of layered injuries never healed quite right and left me unable to enjoy the outdoor sports I love, the “ounce of prevention” and MAINTAINING funtion is preferable.  I’m currently 46 and proud to say I’m healthier and more functional than I was at 31, thanks to correction and maintenance via chiropractic care.  I’m very glad that I found the resource of corrective chiropractic care to restore the function I had lost at age 31, and my goal with this blog is to offer YOU that possibility BEFORE you get to where I was!

What injuries has your body not healed optimally?  How has this affected your ability to do what you love?  Can your deficiency be corrected or improved, to enhance and protect your body’s future movement and function? What may happen if you DON’T take steps to correct deficiencies that are already stopping you from living life fully?

Corrective chiropractic care is not just about pain reduction, it’s about functional outcomes and restoration of your ability to move normally through life’s challenges, whatever those are for you.  While pain management’s endpoint is lack of pain, the endpoint of corrective chiropractic care is the ability to walk up stairs unassisted, to be strong enough to lift the groceries or kids out of the car without fearing structure failure, to play on the floor with the grandkids without fearing being unable to get up, it’s about being able to hike that mountain or run that race.  It’s about moving, so that you don’t lose it.

We’ve all seen the “downward slide,” when someone stops exercising and moving.  It truly is the beginning of the end.  Muscles get weaker, blood pressure goes up, sleep diminishes in quality and quantity, body aches accumulate, health declines.  What if the ability to move, to exercise consistently whether it be walking or ultra-marathon, is really the key to healthy longevity?  And what if restoration or preservation of the ability to move could restore or enhance healthy longevity, and ENJOYMENT of life?

Well, frankly, if you now see that, you’d be calling your closest corrective care chiropractor for an assessment to clearly outline what in your body is working well versus functional deficiencies you have, and to what degree.  To determine whether what you’ve got going on can be restored or improved.  It’s your body, and you’re only given one.  Take care of it.

Call us, I’ll be happy to authentically and transparently talk with you about possibilities.  If I think I can help you, I’ll tell you - and if I don’t think I can help you, I’ll try to guide you towards some resources that can.  In closing, please forward this link to someone who needs to hear it.  A lot of folks don’t even know that functional restoration is possible, or that it could improve life as much as it can. Share this possibility with them.  Hope is a beautiful thing to give.