De-conditioning Syndrome Part 1

De-conditioning Syndrome is the process of losing one's ability to adapt to normal physical stress. It is the most common underlying condition that presents in the Chiropractic and Physical Medicine setting.

Often, patients present to the doctor with an acute episode of back or neck pain. They identify what caused it such as bending over to tie a shoe, brushing teeth, riding in the car for 5 hours or any number of "normal activities" that they have always done without any problem but this time it has created the pain.

Logic must be applied here to help these patients understand that yes, maybe tying your shoe created this "acute episode" of back pain, however if the shoe tying did cause the problem, then the problem would have started when they tied their shoe for the first time at 5 years old. Or the action of brushing your teeth "caused my back pain", it would happen every time you brushed your teeth. These "normal" activities did not really cause the "problem". It is rarely what you did that caused it, it is usually what you have not been doing to prevent de-conditioning over a period of years that led to this "episode".

Muscles, tendons and ligaments must be active to stay healthy. They need to move, stretch and contract to stay in shape. Mechanically, our lifestyles beginning at a very young age encourage sitting and being sedentary. From learning to color, work or play on a computer, watch TV etc. Our entire lives seem to revolve around using those 2 big muscles on our behinds for cushions instead of motion. This lack of movement starts a very slow and progressive process of de-conditioning. We do not "feel" it happening. It is slow, progressive and relentless until the day comes that these tissues are so out of shape, they can no longer successfully adapt to the physical stress of tying your shoe.

It is human nature to try and identify what "caused" the problem, however this kind of thinking is how we get old.
Thinking this way limits our lifestyles and prevents us from doing the things we love to do.

One of my patients presented to the office telling me that she went to a movie today and after the movie, she could not get up out of the seat because her back hurt so bad. She complained that those seats were so bad that she just can-not ever go to the movies again. I have known her for a while, so I asked her where all the other people that were at the movies today were because they should all be bent over in pain like her if those chairs really did cause the problem? The truth is, it really was not the chair that created her problem. It was her underlying de-conditioning that led to her not being able to handle that "stress" that caused her problem. She had made the decision that the chair was the problem, so the solution now was to never go to the movies again, problem fixed. That is how we get old.

Another patient came in and stated that he needs a new bed and wanted me to recommend one. He always wakes up with back pain every morning and he and his wife have purchased 2 beds in the last 2 years and it has not made a difference. I asked him how his wife felt in the morning when she get out of bed. He said, "she feels great, and never complains of any back pain". Well Mr. Patient, what does that tell you? It is not the bed that is the problem, it's you. If all the muscles, tendons ligaments and joints in our body are in reasonably good condition, it would not matter if we slept on a hard bed, soft, waterbed, floor or stack of rocks, we would successfully adapt to those physical stresses and not be in pain.

Both of these patients had accepted that some external device had created this "problem" and decided to avoid it or modify things for the rest of their lives to fix it. She would never go to the movies again, he would continue to dump money in new beds over and over again. It reminds me of the story of the guy that went to the Doctor because his shoulder hurt when he raised it above his head. The Doctor tells him to stop raising it above your head, problem solved.

In part 2 of this series, I will discuss how these "beliefs" change our lives, and how we are led to believe that "it is normal because you're getting old".

Author: James D. McLelland D.C.
Richmond Chiropractor
Chiropractic Centers of Short Pump

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