2005-05-27 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Bone Health and Balance

DR. nancy gahles
DR. nancy gahles We tend to think of health as related to the function of our organs. We check the status of our heart, lungs, liver and kidneys on a yearly basis. Do we ever think about the skeletal structure that houses these organs? The bones that protect the internal organs? The rib cage is just that. A cage that protects the vital organs, the heart and the lungs, from the traumatic insults of walking this earth. The bones of the skull protect the brain. The bones of the spine protect the spinal cord, the brain of the body, from injury.

When we think of bones, we tend to think of hard, dry brittle skeletons. In fact, bones are living organs, too. They are alive with cells and flowing body fluids. Bones are constantly being renewed and remodeled as they carry you through life. They will adjust their deposition of bone as you desire. For instance, bone is laid down in response to the way you hold yourself in space. Bone will form along lines of gravity. That is why weight bearing exercise is stressed in a proper bone health program. That is why bed rest is contraindicated after hip fractures and most injuries. Use it or lose it is a reality of structural integrity.

Structural integrity is necessary for balance. Balance means that we are able to hold ourselves upright, to walk, run and make overt and discrete position changes with ease and fluidity. Quick movements may be necessary to save our lives in the event of an impending threat from the environment such as a car speeding toward us or a pot of hot water spilling on us. Quick movements in a discrete sense may be the quick turning of your head in response to a honking horn or the unexpected ring of a telephone. When you have restriction in the range of motion of your skeleton, quick, sudden movements such as these can bring you to your knees in pain.

Structural integrity means that our bones are in alignment, and the muscles that attach to these bones are balanced and have good tone to hold the bones in place.

As we age, muscle mass is lost. Weak muscles do not have the strength to hold us up well or for long. This is often signaled by complaints of fatigue or inability to walk

long distances.

Mobility is dependent on a balanced structure. Without movement, degeneration of all the affected parts sets in. Degeneration of the spine leads to pain and inability to access the activities of daily living which gives one joy. Degeneration of the bones can lead to osteoporosis which predisposes one to fractures of the vertebrae, ribs or hip. Broken bones in your spine are painful and can be slow to heal. Hip fractures are the most serious problem and can lead to inability to care for oneself as well as an increase in risk of death. People with weak bones in their spine gradually lose height and their posture becomes hunched over. In teenagers we see this all the time. Lack of exercise, improper posture and poor eating habits create weaker bones at a time when they should be creating a bone bank of strong bones to sustain them in later life.

We see this in toddlers and young children who fall constantly as they learn to integrate movements in their lives. The postural distortions that result from these micro traumas are rarely addressed as they are deemed insignificant in children. If it isn’t bleeding or broken, it doesn’t warrant fixing. In fact, it is precisely these micro traumas that lead to scoliosis, kyphosis and degenerative changes in the spine in later life.

Each day calcium is deposited and withdrawn from your bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, you could be withdrawing more than you deposit. Our bodies are building calcium in our bones until about the age of 30. After that, we need to keep the bone we have by proper nutrition, supplementation and exercise.

Suffice it to say that we need to pay attention to our structure. We need to look at how we are carrying ourselves through life. Start by observing how you wake each morning. What does your body feel like? Is it easy or difficult to get moving? Look in the mirror. Are you standing straight? How are you bent or twisted? Do you tilt your head to one side or lean forward? Do you stand on one leg more than the other? Do you flare your foot out to one side? These are all signs of altered weight bearing that will affect the way that you carry yourself through the day. This will affect the way you feel during the day and the way that you feel at the end of the day. It will affect the way that you move and your desire to move. And movement is the key to life.

Movement allows us to access our potential. Movement allows us to make independent, conscious choices and carry them out. Freedom of movement is unassisted living. This is a goal for infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults and seniors. One common goal. Freedom of movement to pursue the highest purpose of our existence. Freedom of movement implies balance. A good range of motion allows us to have broader reach and better recovery time. This can decrease injuries and risk of falls. Restriction of movement limits us from reaching our potential.

Restriction of movement makes us cranky, depressed, dependent and begins a downward spiral of joylessness.

Take heart! You can start right now by becoming consciously aware of your bones and your balance.

Begin a bone and balance program by diet and lifestyle changes. For people of all ages, a structural assessment by a Doctor of Chiropractic will give you the information you need to restore spinal integrity and muscular balance. Neuromusculoskeletal integration is the key to well being on all levels. We now see its importance in the learning challenges of children called auditory and visual processing difficulties among other learning issues. Sensory integration and joint compression techniques are now being taught to hyperactive children as well as those with low muscle tone. It spans the decades through adulthood to seniors. Our skeletons take us through life. We need to tend to them and maintain them just as we would our hearts.

A proper exercise program can range from vigorous activity for younger people to walking and stretching for older people. I like vestibular rehabilitation and fall prevention programs for adults and seniors as well as for children with issues of balance, clumsiness and restlessness. Call me for information on this program or email me at askDrNancy@aol.com.

A balancing yoga routine is essential for everyone as it allows you to tune into your own particular issues of movement and incorporates your breathing and focus styles. Know yourself and be with yourself throughout all the stages in your life and you will be the one in charge of your life.

The nutrition of healthy bones is a matter of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium in right amounts. Calcium and vitamin D requirements increase as we age. For complete information on your particular needs go to www.os teo.org or www.surgeongeneral. gov . Certainly, it is best to have a good relationship with your own health professional and to discuss your unique health issues on a regular basis. You can always call me. 718-634-4577.

We are nothing if not changing, dynamic life forces. Living and breathing and emanating joy and enriching the goodness of the earth. So before you put those bones back into the earth..use them in good health..for your good and the good of everyone on the planet. Peace. Balance. Harmony.

It’s our birthright.

May The Blessings Be!

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