It still feels surreal, but on Friday the 13th I was snowboarding at Keystone mountain. There was lots of fresh powder and I was having a great time until I got cut in half at the knee by a fallen tree hidden under the deep fresh powder, I was in. I’ll save the rescue story for another time, but long story short I shattered my left knee, my tibial plateau and fibular head to be exact, which then needed to be surgically repaired. I have 13 lucky screws now though!
The orthopedic surgeon told me the unfortunate consequence of the blunt trauma to my knee joint is the reality I will, and technically already do have arthritis in that joint. I’m 33 years old, that sucks to hear, right? But I’ll deal with it and being a wellness minded doc I will be doing plenty of proactive things to help the joint be as healthy as possible. This includes but is not limited to movement, exercise, and good nutrition. These things won’t give me a new knee joint, but they will give me the best chance of helping the knee joint stay as healthy as possible, as long as possible, and unfortunately one day I may still need another surgery or joint replacement.
The thing is I see a similar scenario in my Chiropractic practice every day. People have accidents, traumas, and stressors to their bodies that affect their spines directly. Some like me undergo a blunt trauma like a whiplash injury, and others just have such poor posture, they likely sit ALL DAY and essentially have deformed spines, which then the spinal joints and discs are prone to degeneration and arthritis because of the unnatural stress over a long period of time. Either way, it’s a lot of stress, right? Either all at once or spread out over time, stress is stress.
The biggest problem I see other than the stress we put on our spines, which often is honestly unavoidable or unintentional, yet we don’t deal with it, and just let it slowly wear us down. Like my knee right? Ultimately the prognosis is still unknown, but if I do nothing good for it over the next few decades it’s certain to cause me a load of problems. Peoples spines are no different, they neglect proper recovery and healing after the initial trauma, or they have postural deformities they never address and just let progressively get worse.
There is actually a scientific law for this, in regard to bone density, deformation, and degeneration. It’s called Wolff’s Law which states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading. Ok, so what does all that jargon mean? If you have lots of stress on a bone, it will adapt by increasing the amount of bone.
Stress on the spine = more bone growth ➡️ bone spurs ➡️ arthritic pain
The good thing is the inverse of Wolff’s law is true, which is why astronauts who spend long periods in space with zero gravity come back with less bone density. So, if we take the stress away the bone will get smaller.
Less stress on the spine = less bone growth➡️ smaller bone spurs➡️ less arthritic pain
So when a patient comes to me after a trauma or with arthritis already in their spines, I now can really relate much more personal to that. But I can also reassure them if they restore the alignment of their spine, move and exercise more, eat the right nutrition they will be able to still live a good, active and relatively pain-free life. That’s what corrective care is all about, the closer we can correct the alignment of your spine to normal, just like the closer they rebuilt my knee after being shattered, the best prognosis we can have for it, meaning you are getting more life out of those years!