Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Osteoarthritis, Wolfe's Law and Orthotics

© 2003 by Dr. Tim Maggs

In December, 2002, a red-hot, swollen arthritic knee donned the cover of Time Magazine. The caption read, The Coming Epidemic of Arthritis-The bad news, research shows the disease starts attacking your joints long before middle age; The good news, the latest treatments are more effective than ever.

With great interest, I thumbed to the article, only to find the same old, same old. The first set of "more effective treatments" was a list of different types of medications. From anti-inflammatories to cortisone injections. This list was followed by the different surgical procedures now available, from arthroscopy to joint replacement to bone fusion. And then, "Exercise". "It is advisable to exercise an arthritic joint, as it may freeze if you don't". I ask the question one more time. Why doesn't the industry instruct and encourage us to keep mobility in all the joints of the body as part of the prevention of arthritis, rather than wait until it hits, and then give a crisis call for joint exercise?

Glaring Omission

What the article fails to discuss is Wolfe's Law. In fact, all of modern healthcare, although very familiar with Wolfe's Law, ignores it's very existence. Wolfe's Law states that any bone or joint, under abnormal stress, attracts calcium salts to defend and protect the stressed area. Calcium salts means "bone", and additional bone means arthritis. As in osteoarthritis, the leading type of arthritis today.

So, the point here is this----any imbalances in our human structure, or any abnormal locking of joints due to stess, will lead to and contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Life itself and heredity weaknesses produce continual imbalances and locking of joints, meaning most of us are pre-destined for osteoarthritic changes "long before middle age", as Time Magazine so aptly puts it.

These joint lockings and early degenerative changes can be detected in their earliest stages on a biomechanical exam, which I've discussed in prior articles. I've also admitted that it's difficult to find someone to perform such an exam. But, not impossible. Regardless of the difficulty, all runners must develop their marathon mentality when looking for someone to do this exam, and not stop until it's been done.

Running has the potential to aggravate joints and accelerate degenerative changes, especially when there are significant imbalances present. Any repetitive activity (such as running), especially with it's up and down compression, can certainly increase the stresses that Wolfe's Law talks about. So, balance and joint mobility is the goal, but learning your imbalances and fixation of joints is the starting point we should all seek.

Wolfe's Law and Orthotics

This is history in the making. Wolfe's Law and orthotics have probably never before appeared in the same subtitle. Why, I can't imagine. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but many don't understand Wolfe's Law, as well as not understanding the many benefits of orthotics today.

With higher quality orthotics that are available today, there is enhanced shock absorption in the heels. If more of the shock that occurs from running and the many other stresses of life is absorbed in the orthotic, then wouldn't that suggest that a reduced level of stress ends up going through the body? And, wouldn't that suggest that the structure might not degenerate as quickly? I know I'm not the surgeon general, but I've always had a pretty good sense of logic, and that's exactly what it suggests to me, as well as Wolfe's Law---less stress, less "bone" production for the support of weakned joints. Now, if this is true, why then isn't Wolfe's Law and orthotics on the cover of Time Magazine? I'm really beginning to feel like Columbo here.

Modern Healthcare

Especially when speaking of the human structure, there is a huge void in our present system. Modern healthcare has migrated so far towards disease and pharmaceuticals, that no one out there is looking after the preservation of the human structure. So, the response you'll get from all doctors out there when you begin to suffer with degenerative changes is,"hey, it's arthritis. We all have it". If you ask me, that's a pathetic response, and isn't that why we're out there running. To preserve and improve our wellness and longevity?

The insurance industry is out there forcing most of us on our choices of healthcare. Try calling your insurance company and asking where you might get a biomechanical exam, and they'll probably laugh you right off the phone. "Not a part of your policy", they'll most likely say. And, so, the saga of following the current rules and ignoring the real issues continues.

The Solution

80% of all patients in my practice are fitted with custom orthotics. If you do anything more than spend the day in bed, it is money well spent. The next step is to keep mobility in all joints and muscles of the body. Flexibility exercises are a good start, but for joint mobility, it may involve help. The chiropractic profession is the most likely source for keeping and maintaining good joint mobility. The osteopathic profession is another source, but many of them have succumbed to just writing prescriptions, so you have to make sure that adjustments or manipulation is part of their protocol.

Now, go out and run and enjoy yourself for the rest of your life. This is how it was meant to be, but don't look for advice or support from the masses. Too many people think Time Magazine is a great source of advice. Me, I think it makes good starter for a bonfire.

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