It is likely that close to 99% of us have some level of destructive adaptation happening in our bodies by the time we are 15 years old (my theory only). This means we have something that is no longer on the “normal” path, and thus that thing is now becoming more and more upset from that normal path. The question why and how to best control this adaptation is what I want to discuss.
First however, lets look at a more complete description of Destructive Adaptation? Basically, as the name suggests, it is adaptation of your body to a stress or stressors, that is destructive. A simple example is scar tissue buildup following an injury. That scar tissue is designed to support normal healing by limiting the amount of continuous damage that can be done to an area while it is healing. Scar tissue is secondary to inflammation, but when it builds up excessively (and fails to break down normally from use following healing) it causes significant functional limitation, and can lead to pain and further damage to an area.
The spine is another area where destrcutive adaptation is common, and sadly the secondary damage is beyond significant. I decided to write about this because of my visit to see Winter, the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale, in which the movie sensationalizes the events that led up to this dolphin receiving a prosthetic tail. Recalling from the movie as Harry Connick Jr. is telling his daughter and the boy who had found Winter, “Their spinal chords are just like ours, they control everything in their body, so if damage continues to the area, well…” The boy comes to the conclusion, “so you are telling us that Winter is going to die from this?”
They were talking about damage to the spinal chord coming from Winter having adapted her swimming technique from an up and down porpoising technique, to a side to side (more like a shark swims) technique. This was in response to her having lost her tail from an entanglement injury with a crab trap. Without the tail fluke, she is able to generate motion by side to side swishing of her body, but the unusual movement is damaging her spinal chord. After seeing her, I would guess that she will die early from this injury. She is young, but the adaptation has only worsened since having the prosthetic, as she is unable to wear it all the time.
The prosthetic allows her to swim in her usual up and down motion, but you can’t take an animal that has learned an adaptive technique, and provide a prosthesis expecting the animal to adapt ‘back’ without issue. Winter currently wears the tail several times a day, and is worked with by a trainer performing “therapy” to regain the strength to be able to wear the tail more often. She is currently on her 18th tail, as she grows, as well as they improve it. But as I was saying, her tail is so curved under (they referred to it as scoliosis, but I would liken it to kyphosis – the deepening of the curve between your shoulder blades, such as due to forward head carriage). She is currently on a path to die from this condition.
I have shared with some of you that kyphosis is one of the most aggressive degenerative changes in the spine, leading to spinal chord impingement from secondary stenosis (narrowing of the spine) which occurs because of adaptation to a posture that no longer supports itself. In other words, destructive adaptation. It is known as a law, Wolfe’s Law, that bone will appear/develop/grow, where it is needed to afford support to other bony structures. What this means, is that if you have a mild scoliosis in your spine and lean to the right, then you will slowly (at first) develop more bone to the right side. It will increase its rate of development, and will eventually impinge nerve tissue from that side, leading to dysfunction and early death.
If it is forward slouching posture, then it will create bone spurs along the front of your spine (no really big deal), followed by secondary spurs along the back of the vertebral body (ok, these are not so good) and again, leading to narrowing of the spinal canal and spinal chord impingement. All destructive adaptations.
Why? Because there is no other choice. The body needs to find a way to adapt to movement, and will sacrifice long term health for short term mobility. Just like Winter is sacrificing her life span for mobility. We cannot just lay down and die, and I wouldn’t ask you to. But I would tell you to follow these rules:
1. Be sure to know your spine. If you haven’t been checked out by someone who is focused on long term correction, then do it.
2. If you have scoliosis, poor posture, etc. And you work out, be sure you are actively doing things to help your spinal misalignment. Putting excessive forces through the spine without working to balance it, will cause you to increase the rate of damage. See a corrective chiropractor (us, or use Maximized Living to find one, to know that you are working on the right path towards health.
3. Perform daily spinal hygiene, no matter what. Simple stretches to aid in your normal posture, and to upset the damage from forward only activities (most people in our culture have their arms reached out in front of them for the bulk of their daily activity, shortening the range of motion, and leading to forward posture.
I learned a lot about the natural process of adaptation by watching Winter. The biggest thing was to get hit with that understanding that the desire to “do”, will override any other protective thought. You cannot just stop yourself from doing, thus, destructive adaptation will come. Be sure to do what you can to combat it. Be well, Be blessed, Dr. E