Last week I was out of the office for a few days to go to San Francisco for a wedding. I’ve been to San Francisco a few times for weekend business trips, but this was my first trip for leisure. Obviously any trip to San Francisco has to include the vaunted views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Beyond great scenery, the bridge is really a marvelous feat of engineering. In my office, I often tell people that Structural Chiropractic through the NUCCA procedure takes an engineer’s view of the spine. As a result, I saw some parallels between what I know about Structural Chiropractic and what I observed walking on the bridge.
1. Suspension Bridges and Spines were built to move – Check out a video of the bridge movement here
California and earthquakes always go together. In order to combat that, engineers had to build structures and buildings with the ability to move. You may not see it from a far, but the bridge has the ability to sway and oscillate, which is key to making sure that an earthquake doesn’t decimate a ridgid structure.
The spine is divided into multiple segments for that same reason. Movement of the spine allows for a dynamic and large range of flexibility so that we can move lots of different ways.When the spine stops moving, then it begins to become more ridgid which opens it up to greater risk of damage when come into contact with a force.
That’s one of the reasons why sedentary people might be at higher risk of injury if they tackle an activity too soon without appropriate progression.
2. Even Perfectly Built Structures are Not Immune to Mother Nature and Father Time – Link
The Golden Gate bridge was built with a phenomenal design. Even when every cable is connected correctly and every bolt placed tightly, the bridge is slowly degenerating. While I was walking across the bridge, I noticed some bits of rust building up on parts of the bridge. It’s not going to happen any time soon, but there will be a time when this bridge will be more likely to break down from it’s constant barrage of cars and weather assaulting the bridge on a daily basis.
Nothing is immune to time and nature. Even a spine with perfect structure will eventually show signs of degeneration and evidence of arthritic wear.
I say this because a lot of people in their 60’s and 70’s ask why their spine shows smaller discs or signs of arthritis, and I usually have to tell them because they lived long enough to have it happen. Arthritis and disc degeneration is not necessarily a big deal to worry about. Almost everyone will have it as they get older.
Just like a bridge, signs of breakdown/wear and tear are only a big deal if it’s happening before you expect it, or before it’s supposed to.
Osteoarthritis in your 30’s = problem
Osteoarthritis in your 70’s = Common
3. All great structures need routine basic maintenance; even when there’s no problem to speak of – link to maintenance projects
All mechanical structures require some level of maintenance. Your car needs oil changes, houses need painting and repairs, and bridges get painted. These things happen even if they’re not affecting the function of the structure at hand.
The joints of the body, particularly of the spine do a tremendous amount of work on a day-to-day basis. Your spine has to fight and resist gravity just from the act of sitting and standing. While your body needs to resist gravity daily for neurological health (more on that in another post), gravity is a constant force that can wear you down.
Chiropractors often get criticism for making care recommendations for people that are no longer in pain. I’ll be honest when I say that some chiropractors probably see people excessively for maintenance purposes. However, I’m not afraid to say that most people can and should maintain the health of their spine throughout their life through.
Who Benefits the Most from Maintenance?
There’s a few types of people that truly do benefit more from maitenance type of care. In our office, we call that type of care Protection Care. It’s low level of care that helps to protect their investment. For most people, it’s between once a month or 2 months to provide self-care recommendations to help their bodies continue to get stronger.
People that usually benefit the most:
- High level athletes – athletes that train at high levels are exposed to the highest amount of joint stresses. During the peak seasons of their sports, I may see these athletes at a higher frequency for maintenance. This is especially true for sports with high contact like football and mixed martial arts.
- Patients with ligament damage like whiplash or disc injury – ligament damage is a tough problem for healing. They get less blood flow and oxygenation from muscles, and they often never reform to their original standard. If you’ve ever had a sprained ankle that keeps turning, you probably know this feeling.
- Chronic Pain Patients – Patients with chronic pain from things like Fibromyalgia don’t often see a full cure. While we can help make life a lot better in most cases, it usually means we have to keep a closer eye on these patients.
While maintenance will not protect you completely from the effects of father time and mother nature, it can help ensure that you get there with a little bit more grace.