This is a picture of one of my hands. It may not look pretty, but it’s in the process of becoming more durable for an extensive, two day kettlebell rehab exercise class at the end of the month.
I usually have some degree of callous on my hands from my regular exercise program, but to get through this class, I needed more protection. We will be gripping and moving kettlebells for about 16 hrs during that weekend class and due to safety reasons will not be allowed to wear gloves. My hands need to be tough enough to take the friction without blistering or opening up. I have been systematically increasing the mechanical stress to my hands (and body) since January and am taking it into overdrive over the next two weeks to prepare.
While the callous on hands is visible, the same process is occurring inside my body too. The adage “use it or lose it” is 100% accurate when it comes to your muscles, joints and bones. When you put mechanical stress on your spine, arms or legs, small micro-injuries occur, spurring a repair response and the body puts down stronger bone, disc and muscle material to fix it. This accounts for some of that soreness you feel the day after a big workout or cleaning up the yard early in the Spring.
To the left is an example of a normal low back x-ray. Notice the center of the vertebrae have a strong bone material with a slightly heavier bone layer at the end plates where the bone connects to the discs. This is what it looks like when you exercise regularly including using weights.
If you do not put mechanical stress on your spine, arms or legs, your body saves energy and invests less in keeping those structures strong, increasing your risk to true injury if you tried to lift something heavier, play with your grand kids, clean out the garage or are on your feet longer than usual. This process is amplified as your age increases. It gets harder to maintain muscle and bone mass each decade of life that passes.
This picture on the right is of what it looks like when someone does not exercise or lift heavy items. The bones become almost see through and are vulnerable to fracture. The muscles, tendons and discs go through a similar process — we just can’t see it on x-ray.
Seeing your chiropractor regularly is important for keeping your body moving well, but even the best adjustment in the world can’t protect you if your structures are falling apart from non-use. Exercise, including using weights, is a non-negotiable need for all of us. It reduces spine/muscle pain, improves our metabolism, reduces risk of dementia, improves mood and reduces the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis. It’s one of the most powerful medications we have!
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