Remember when we were kids in school and we learned about Sir Issac Newton sitting under the apple tree? Old Sir Issac got hit on the noggin and suddenly the light went off in his head and we all got to learn about this incredible force in the universe called Gravity.
Is Gravity a friend or a foe when it comes to your back? You might be surprised at the answer!
The human body is an amazing machine…especially when it functions correctly. We all know we have a bunch of bones inside us and know we have a spine that allows us to stand up and move about. Our spine is a fairly complex construction with bones called vertebrae with cartilage ‘cushions’ in between them called discs. The ligaments hold them all together and the muscles overlay this foundational system and provide the ability to move about and live our lives.
Meanwhile our old friend Gravity is busy every second of every day pushing down on us just like Newton’s apple. It’s all about mathematics when you think about it! Gravity very much encourages us to fall to earth. It’s the physics of forces pushing down and our foundational system resisting those forces. Thankfully our spine and muscles and ligaments prevent that from happening….that is when they are working properly!
When we age (as we all do!), and also when we suffer injury to our back and spine, the health and integrity of our vertebrae (the bones in our spine) and the connective tissues (discs, ligaments and muscles) all get compromised and suddenly the downward pressure of gravity is not dissipated as successfully as when we were young. This constant downward pressure from gravity ‘weigh’s’ on our spine and the effects of aging start to appear. The disc or cartilage between every two vertebrae bones begin to shrink; remember how your grandparents suddenly got shorter? The body responds to this decreased ability to resist the force of gravity and bone spurs start to form to try and provide a last ditch effort to deal with gravity. Often these bone spurs show up in regions of the spine that interfere with our nerves and cause further problems. Physicians refer to these changes by a number of names such as “Degenerative Joint Disease”, “Degenerative Disc Disease”, Degenerative Osteoarthritis” , “Spinal Stenosis”, and so on.
So there it is……aging is a fact of life and so is Gravity, and the combination of the two often times is part of the reason that patients show up in our clinic with back pain that simply won’t go away. The good news is that there are actually things you can do to slow the effects of Gravity and aging, and there are conservative treatments for the spine that really can make a difference!
Want to learn more about Gravity and how it affects you? What you can do about it? Get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to share with you some of the tips we can learn from the apple that fell on Issac Newton’s head all those years ago!
Dr. Jeffrey K. Tunick