Saturday, May 19, 2012
The body's check engine light:how to know if you're wrecking the crap out of your machine.
I'm going to use some references and comparisons to machines today to help illustrate some points about the human body. Sometimes it seems like people aren't comfortable thinking of their body as a machine (with correct and incorrect ways of use) even though that's what it is; a living machine. To ensure the proper functioning of a machine, you have to make sure you're using it properly, the way it was designed to be used. Dont' use a lawnmower on a rock beach. Don't use a snow blower as a wood chipper (especially not Fargo style, ew.) Don't use your drill as a hammer, etc. Your body and its parts are subject to the same rules. Don't use your forefoot as a heel (to carry your weight), don't use your knee as a hip, don't use your low back as a hip, etc. What I'm trying to say, is don't let one body part do the work that another body part was specifically designed to do. When you use your parts to do stuff they weren't designed to do, they start breaking down prematurely (so stop calling it a part of aging! you're just doin' it wrong.)
So, how do we know that machines are breaking down? Sometimes they straight up break. Sometimes they stop functioning properly, like when your drill will run but it does "grrungg, chk, chk,chk (grinding sound here) vrrrrggg". Others, like your car, have a sweet warning system, a red flag: the check engine light. What do you generally do when the check engine light comes on? Put a piece of black tape over it? Outta sight, outta mind? Just because you don't see it, or aren't thinking about it, doesn't mean you won't still have to deal with the eventual consequence of ignoring the problem. Personally, I think "oh man, the check engine light! Better get this piece of crap into the garage before this issue destroys my car".
What's that you say? Your body doesn't have a check engine light, or a complicated on board computer system that lets you know when something is wrong? Of course it does! You have a very technical system, called your nervous system, which monitors your body, and has a very clear check engine light to let you know you suck at operating your machine. It's PAIN. When something hurts, it's a pretty good indication that something's wrong. A malfunction, or a misuse of sorts. We don't always pay attention to this warning system until it's too late though, and our machine starts getting wrecked. :(
We don't even realize we're ignoring our check engine lights! Sure we go to the doctor, and we usually end up taking some kind of pain medication or anti inflammatory or giant needle in the joint. Here's the kicker: taking these medications is like putting black tape over the light. Just because you bring down the inflammation, or can't feel the pain, doesn't mean that the ROOT CAUSE is gone. Say you have inflammation in your knee because you walk with your foot turned out, and you depend on your quadriceps to do the work of your backside. Then you take an anti-inflammatory and a pain medication. Weeee! The pain is gone! But you didn't address the actual reason for the pain in your knee, so the damage continues to be done, until you need a knee replacement.
If you hear yourself saying "but my pain is from arthritis" or "my bunion is hereditary" or "my back hurts for (insert whatever reason here)", maybe you should get a second opinion from a restorative exercise specialist (like me!! :D). Soooo much of this stuff is due to user error (you're the user, and you're using it incorrectly), and if you can learn to start using your machine correctly, you can stop wrecking the crap out of it.