People as young as in their mid-thirties are often told, ‘oh well, you’re getting on, you should expect this sort of thing at your age’. It’s a depressing thing to hear from your doctor, and not a phrase that inspires you to take action and try to solve your problem.
In this article, I’d like to flip this statement on its head and help you develop an alternative viewpoint on the ageing process and damage to the body. Then we’ll relate all this back to your knee pain.
Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll feel like you have more control over the direction your body is taking and more motivation to do something to change it.
The two 50-year olds
Have you ever seen two fifty-year olds – one that looks barely forty, while the other looks like they are well into their sixties? If you’re in your forties, fifties, or beyond, you probably have many peers who look vastly different from ageing perspective.
How can this be, when they’ve been on the planet for the same amount of time? It’s all about stress load on the body.
Stress load and what happens to your body
Stresses can come in several forms. A basic way to categorise them is: physical, mental and emotional. There are other stresses, such as electromagnetic, radiation, etc, but these three are the main ones that have an effect on your body.
Every day, your body experiences stress of various types, and adapts to these stresses to stay functioning and healthy. When you experience more stress than your body can handle, then break-down occurs.
The part of your body that helps you adapt to stresses in the environment is your nervous system. Every second of every day, it is coordinating and controlling the function of every single cell and organ in the body.
Your nervous system changes the levels of function and activity in different parts of the body to help you to constantly adapt to a changing environment. Pretty amazing, heh?
Why do Things Break Down?
Here are two classic examples of breakdown, often blamed on ageing.
Firstly, especially if you’re in your forties or beyond, check out the skin on your butt and compare that to the skin on your neck. Can you see a difference? Same age skin (born on the same day!), but one area has been subjected to the stress on ongoing UV light exposure (neck), while the other has been tucked away behind clothing most of the time.
The second example relates to our topic of knee pain. As a chiropractor, I have heard variations on this story TOO many times. The patient goes to the doctor with a ‘worn-out’ and painful knee to find out what is causing it (and perhaps to see what can be done).
The doctor says, ‘well, at your age, you should expect this sort of thing’.
In this case, the sore and damaged knee is being blamed on ‘the ageing process’. The implication is that this is a normal part of ageing that cannot be avoided, prevented or restored.
What About the Other Knee?
The obvious question to ask in this instance, is, ‘what about the other knee? It’s fine.’ By the way, that other (good) knee was born on the same day! If old age was the cause, then both knees should be in the same condition, right?
What is happening to cause that knee to be damaged?
Well, somewhere along the way, the body was overwhelmed with stresses. These were likely to be mostly physical stresses, but chemical and emotional stresses can also dramatically alter the body’s function.
These stresses may have come in the form of one or more ‘macro’ stresses, such as a severe sporting injury or car accident, but they are just as likely to have come in the form of repeated ‘micro’ stresses such as poor alignment and control over many years.
Misalignment of joints of the spine, hips, knees and ankles as well as the nerve interference that often accompanies this will greatly alter the daily functioning of a knee joint. When compounded over time (every movement and step you take), this can amount to severe damage.
Knee pain can be caused by a variety of problems, but they all are the result of damage due to some type of overload that the body was unable to deal with.
Accumulated Damage – Not ageing
What is often erroneously called ‘the ageing process’, should really be called the ‘accumulation of damage process’. Yes, we’ll all (hopefully) get old, grey and somewhat wrinkly. We’ll slow down and lose some capacity as we get older. That’s ageing.
If you look after yourself, you should be able to stay healthy while you age and spend your last ten to fifteen years still being active, independent and capable.
Don’t confuse the ageing process with accumulation of damage and stress. Ageing is a natural process whereby some function is slowly lost (eg. skin elasticity, kidney function), but allowing you to continue living a full life.
Accumulated damage, depending on the severity, can be severely restricting, stopping you from living the life you want.
Ageing you can’t do anything about, and really, who needs to? On the other hand, with accumulated damage, you can look to the cause and take action to help your body heal itself and function better once more. Take a closer look at your painful knee.
Is it the ageing process or accumulated damage causing your problem? With this approach to damage vs ageing, you have more control to make improvements with your health for a better life.
If you have knee pain and you’re not sure what to do about it, please call us on (02) 6257 9400.
If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website: www.spinecentre.com.au. Also, make sure you read the other interesting articles we post on hip and knee pain this month.