In my practice as a chiropractor I often get asked the question from patients following a review of their xrays:
“Are the arthritic and degenerative changes in my spine a result of aging?
The answer I give them is: “It depends.” In many cases there are areas of the spine that are free of any sign of degenerative changes while others are in various phases of the degenerative process. (See the photo to the left of a lumbar spine xray from the side). If it was purely an aging process all the spinal joint and discs would exhibit degenerative changes. At this point in the conversation I ask the patient this question: “What cause the arthritic joints to degenerate? They will typically respond with, “I don’t know, I have not thought about this before.”
The direct answer to this question is subconscious poor daily movement habits. Think about your typical day. Many of us will perform and go through the identical activities every day. We get up, get out of bed, have a cup of coffee, have breakfast, take a shower, get dressed, drive to work, perform the same duties at work, commute home, have dinner, watch our favorite TV shows, and go to bed. The next day we hit the repeat button and do it all over again. The same idea can be applied to exercising. The people who do exercise on a regular basis tend to perform the same exercise regimen over and over again. There are those who despite working out the whole body over the course of 3-4 days during a given week are repeating the same exercises. Others may run a certain distance at the same pace several times a week.
The human body is an amazing organism in that it will intelligently ADAPT to whatever is directed its way, whether it’s positive or negative. If you sit at your desk over a computer with the same poor movement habits day in and day out your body will adapt accordingly, i.e. it will exhibit structural and functional imbalances that lead to the evolution of compromised structural integrity (poor body posture). These imbalances are what lead to the manifestation of arthritis and other degenerative conditions, and the many varied painful musculoskeletal conditions.
The key to any form of change is to first acknowledge what it is that you want to change. When it comes to your body many of you are not aware of the thing(s) that must change; or for those who are aware of the thing(s) that must change; you are not sure how to change them. The first step to change is to become aware of your body posture during certain points of the day. For example, whenever you are standing for any length of time pay attention to how you are standing. Do you lean to one side more versus the other? Are your feet shoulder width a part? Which way are your toes pointed? Are the tops of your shoulders level? Once you notice something make the effort to modify it, e.g. if you are holding your left shoulder blade towards your left ear then simply lower it.
In conclusion, the uneven wear and tear of your body is not so much related to getting older as it is to a lack of body awareness that contributes to the evolution of poor movement/postural habits. Give yourself permission to be more playful with your daily and occupational “movement” activities. Use your eyes to observe how those around you carry their bodies, i.e. look at their body posture while sitting, standing, walking, bending, lifting, etc. Observation of these visual cues will offer a helpful reminder to you to take a look at your own body carriage. This in turn will motivate you to change your body position(s) and pay more attention to how you are using your body.