Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Poor Posture, Back Pain and Wolff’s Law
Whenever I am speaking to a group of people about any of those health topics and ask if anyone has heard of Wolff’s Law I always get the same, glazed over, heading shaking stare. Few people have ever heard of it.
What is Wolff’s Law.
First off, Julius Wolff was a German anatomist from the 19th century. His studies and experiments led to the physical law that was given his name. What his law states is…Bones in your body form as a result of stresses that are placed on it.
What that means is the more force placed on a bone, by either weight or direction, will cause a bone to remodel or change. If you have strong forces being exerted on the bone, the bone will have more density and strength. If you have no forces exerted the bone will lose density and lead to osteoporosis. If you have an abnormal directional force placed on the bone it can alter the position of the bone.
So Why Should I Care?
Well you should care, and you should have been told about this physical law a long time ago.
What Dr. Wolff showed is the key to preventing the conditions of osteroporosis, osteoarthritis, poor posture, and back and neck pain. These conditions combined will be experienced by over 80% of the adult population in the United States. Here is the important part…
An Understanding of Wolff’s Law Makes These Conditions Largely Preventable.
Let’s look at osteoporosis first. Most people think it is a disease of aging women, but according to Wolff’s Law, it can affect anyone. Young astronauts on the orbiting space stations had osteoporosis developing when they returned from space. How?… There was no gravity in space, therefore there wasn’t any force or stress being placed on their bones.
What do we do now with people diagnosed with osteoporosis? Usually have them perform as little activity as possible, or maybe some water aerobics. Please… A basic understanding of Wolff’s Law shows these people need to do exercise with as much resistance as they can tolerate. Studies have shown that swimming and water aerobics have nearly no effect at all on increasing bone density. (We have specific exercises given to our osteoporosis patients)
How About Arthritis…
There are many types of arthritis but the most common is osteoarthritis and Wolff’s Law has an answer for that. Osteoarthritis is characterized by an overgrowth of bone. You develop large, angry projections of bone called osteophytes or bone spurs. Most people are surprised to learn that you don’t “catch” osteoarthritis…instead it develops.
Develops From What?
From abnormal stresses or wear and tear of the joint or bones. That abnormal stress usually comes in one of two forms: Loss of normal motion or repetitive motion. Either of these have the effect of causing the joint to lose the ability to maintain normal function and it starts to become arthritic. A normal functioning joint will never become osteoarthritic. Wolff’s Law.
What Came First, Poor Posture or Wolff’s Law?
Chicken or the egg? Some people are born with structural problems that lead to their posture being distorted, so for them the answer is posture first. But for most people your poor posture is created by your habits…staring at your smartphone for hours, slumping when you sit, spending your day in a seated position, just to name a few.
These habits lead to stresses being placed on your spine… Stress on bones leads to remodeling of the bone…Remodeling leads to changes in structure…Changes in structure lead to…Distortion of your posture.
Most People Think…
Back pain has many different causes, and it is true there are many different activities that can injure your back or neck, but the pain usually comes from…
Either too much motion, or not enough. Both of these causes have a similar effect on the bones…Abnormal stress being placed on them. And as we now already know, any stress placed on bone will force the bone to remodel and change. That again is Wolff’s law.
It is these changes that help create the pain. Those changes might be: arthritis of the spine, or compression fractures from osteoporosis, or degeneration of the disc, or slipped or herniated discs, but whatever the change, it is due to Wolff’s Law.
“So What Do I Do About It”…
It is important that all bones and joints in your body don’t have too much physical stress or force placed on them, and if they do, have that force removed by establishing normal motion. Once the stress or abnormal motion is removed there is no more Wolff’s Law action taking place.
This is really what we do as Chiropractors. We look for areas of the spine or body that have too much stress placed on them or aren’t moving like they should be. We then help remove the stress and allow normal motion to happen. It really is that simple.
This is why you need to have your spine examined, even if there is no pain. Remember…
It is Always Easier to Prevent a Problem Then Fix One.