Osteoarthritis (OA) is prevalent with aging. So is gray hair. And wrinkles. OA is a form of joint degeneration, just like gray hair and wrinkles represent types of degeneration. But we think of hair and skin changes kindlier, accepting them as normal, harmless parts of getting older.
OA, on the other hand, gets a bad rap – a painful rap – when in fact it can also be normal and harmless. An association between OA and pain is unfortunately widely believed. If someone’s knee hurts and a knee MRI shows osteoarthritis, we quickly blame the osteoarthritis for the pain and tell ourselves that it can’t be fixed (unless we have surgery). When our head or skin hurts, do we automatically blame our grays or our wrinkles?
It is clear OA doesn’t necessarily cause pain because we find plenty of OA in people without pain. In fact, a person over 60 undeniably has OA somewhere in her body. Pain in a joint may be from OA, but it may also be from an irritated nerve, a dysfunctional tendon, or a misalignment in the joint – which are all typically very fixable! Expert McKenzie clinicians identify (and then treat) the true cause of someone’s pain. -- Laura
Alignment is important! When you move forward, you should be rolling over, and pushing off of, your big toe. This is the way the body was meant to move, step after step, year after year. If your movement pattern is off-kilter, your muscles, joints, etc. will likely break down at some point. (Just like misaligned tires on a car will usually lead to problems.)
When it comes to fixing an incorrect movement pattern, you first need to identify WHY you're not moving properly, of course. Your leg or legs may be moving incorrectly because of misalignment in one of your joints such as your spine, hip, knee, ankle, or any of the multiple joints in your foot. Or perhaps a muscle is weak or tight, not allowing you to move in a straight line. Considering how repetitive this movement is in our lives, it really is vital to have it functioning optimally to prevent injuries such as joint dysfunction (arthritis, meniscal and ligament problems) and muscle/tendon dysfunction (strains, tendinitis, tendinopathy). -- Laura
I realize I sound like a broken record, but I can't stress this enough: just because something is identified on an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan, does not mean it is causing a problem! Because so many people WITHOUT symptoms have abnormalities, it's clear we can't use imaging to diagnose orthopedic pathology. Instead, patients need a clinical exam in which the structures of the body are stressed in order to determine what the root of the pain/numbness/tingling/etc. is. This chart has some great statistics! Say you're over 40, for example: there's a 68% chance some of your disks are degenerated, a 45% chance some disks have shrunk in height, a 50% chance some disks are bulging, and a 33% chance some disks are protruded. These spinal changes are therefore quite normal as we age and are not necessarily correlated with symptoms. -- Laura
"It should be remembered that radiographic signs of degeneration are almost universal after 55, but that symptoms are present in only about 50% of those with such changes."
Huskisson EC, Hart FD (1987). Joint Diseases: All the arthropathies (4th ed.). Wrght, Bristol.
-- This means that abnormalities on imaging do not necessarily correlate with symptoms. Plenty of people are walking around with torn rotator cuffs, meniscal tears, arthritis and the like without any actual symptoms. More importantly, plenty of people incorrectly think that their symptoms can't be fixed because imaging shows something is irreversibly wrong. Via a thorough clinical examination, I aim to find and address the true cause of a patient's symptoms. Don't overlook expert physical therapy just because something is on an x-ray or MRI.
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