Treating Our Joints Efficiently

One place we want to be efficient and not just normal is when it comes to the function of our joints. As we age we lose the range of motion of our joints. This is accelerated by injury or by misuse/disuse. If this isn’t restored it can cause problems that are lifelong.

Now let’s take a relatively benign problem, an ankle sprain. Say you roll your ankle and it heals. 6 weeks later you are moving pretty well, so you go back to your normal activities. You are in most ways back to your “normal”. But what happens if during that injury you lost some flexibility and don’t get it back?

Now it’s a few years later. Life has been good and you have no more problems with your ankle. You get a new couch and you have to carry it up some steps. When you go to lift this couch up the steps you don’t have the ankle flexibility to lift it with good form. Now all of a sudden your back starts to hurt. Now you have a back problem that doesn’t get better because your non-painful ankle is stiff. These problems are clearly connected if you know where to look, but at first glance can seem unrelated.

This is an unfortunate problem at this time because these aren’t issues that are studied. Most long term research on injuries don’t track outcomes outside of that joint. We often in PT research don’t study enough people to be significant, or have our studies last long enough either. We are missing a tremendous amount of these “regionally interdependent” injuries, and after all – the body is all connected!

What’s the solution? In the long term we need better research and a lot more high quality longitudinal studies on regional interdependence. For now what we can do is strive for efficiency. If we had gotten your ankle not just normal, but efficient in the first place, we would never have had the back pain. We need to treat our bodies until they are efficient and at their highest level of function, rather than just “back to normal”. We all know prevention is one of the best forms of efficiency.

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