Wear and Tear?! Or Can We Change That to WEAR AND REPAIR?
As a physical therapist, I’ve heard a lot of people refer to their source of pain as “wear and tear.” But here’s the thing, we aren’t made of dead materials. Yes, structures, wear and tear. Wood splits, softens and deteriorates. Cement cracks and crumbles. But our bodies are alive and well. They are constantly repairing. Even in the absence of injury, our bodies are purposefully remodeling and building stuff up everywhere.
For example, our bones are in a constant cycle of being “broken down” and “built up” by cells in our bodies. The rate at which they are built up generally matches the rate in which they are broken down, creating a perfect cycle that keeps our bones fresh and healthy. Sometimes, bone actually gets built up FASTER than it gets broken down. This happens with use and is known as Wolf’s Law. The body will lay down more bone where it needs it– and it needs it where it’s being used!
On the other hand, sometimes the body breaks it down faster than it builds it up. This can happen if we’re lacking nutrients or with disuse. Perhaps the body is assuming we don’t need it if we don’t use it. This can lead to osteoporosis, which is why the recommendation to prevent and treat osteoporosis is strength training and impact sports! Use it or lose it. Use it and improve it.
THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF “WEAR AND TEAR.”
Muscle works in a very similar way. The body builds them up when we use them. That’s why weightlifters have big muscles. And on the other hand, if we don’t the muscles thin out and get smaller.
THIS IS ALSO THE OPPOSITE OF “WEAR AND TEAR.”
Now let’s look at the joints. The joints are supported by muscle. When the muscle weakens, the joints get less support, which can lead to pain and other issues. Additionally, joint surfaces are covered by a synovial fluid. When we move our joints, this fluid gets spread out and helps with the glide of one joint surface across the other– “motion is lotion.”
THESE ARE SOME CLEAR EXAMPLES OF OUR BODIES RESPONDING WELL TO USE.
Now, with all this said, there are some instances where “wear and tear” can occur. Our tissues are obviously not impermeable to injury. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had injuries. They tend to occur when the action outdoes what our tissues can tolerate. For example, if I were to try to go off a ski jump tomorrow, I’d likely do some damage. I’d tear at least a few things. BUT, if I trained every day and built my tissues up to be able to handle that, learned the skills and prepared my body, then I’d likely be fine. I’d have a grand old time flying for a few seconds.
Let’s scale this down a bit though, because I don’t think I’ll be doing any ski jumps any time soon. What if I need to dart across the street to get out of the way of a car that doesn’t see me. Or what if I have to catch something that’s falling, carry something heavy or maybe chase a toddler on the move. The more I’ve built my body up (strong bones, muscles and joints) the more likely I’ll be able to accomplish that activity without “tear” or injury. Maybe that activity is walking down the stairs, or lifting your grandkids. If those things are challenging and cause pain, it might not be that you need to avoid those things due to “wear and tear.” Maybe it means that with some focused work on building up your muscles, joints and bones, you could prepare your body to do these things.
FOR EVERY PHASE IN LIFE, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE OUR CHALLENGES. THE MORE WE PREPARE OUR BODIES FOR THE ACTIVITIES COMING OUR WAY, THE LESS LIKELY WE ARE TO EXPERIENCE PAINS AND DISCOMFORTS FROM THESE THINGS!
Please note that this is very generalized information on how the body works. If you want to build your body up and are experiencing pain or other issues or you have a diagnosis like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, prolapse etc. then I recommend getting a PT on your side. We have the training and experience to help build you up while taking these things into consideration!
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