Monday, April 19, 2010

Blueprint for Repair

By Richard P. Holm MD

We don’t always appreciate the wonderful healing capacity of our bones.

A few years back I was on call, and the ambulance brought in a young college gentleman who had fallen three stories off a roof onto the cement below. Apparently he landed first on his feet and fell forward. As he landed, he sequentially, like a row of falling dominoes, broke parts of his feet, legs, knees, hands, wrists, elbows, jaw, and nose. The orthopedist who came in to help when I called, counted something like 26 fractures, and my ENT specialist who also came in estimated the patient was going about 35 miles per hour when he hit the concrete.

We ended up sending the young man to the trauma center in Sioux Falls, but what was amazing was how his brain and vital organs had been protected. He had not lost consciousness, remained perfectly awake, and his heart, lungs, gut. and spine were just fine. But the best news came with how eventually, after a lot of rehabilitation, his bones repaired themselves. A year later he walked into my office, without a limp I should add, and shook my hand firmly to thank me for helping him that fateful night.

Most people have the concept that our bones and joints are continuously wearing out and deteriorating over time. It is common thinking that if we simply live long enough, we will end up as a slumped over pile of soft bones and frozen joints. This doesn’t have to be..

Instead, our bodies are constantly remodeling and repairing bones and joints; taking apart, breaking down, and then rebuilding anew. Small injuries are always happening along the way, and maybe it happens more so as we get older, but there is a continuous remodel-and-repair process always going on, throughout your whole life..

The key point to remember is that the blue print for the remodel comes from the daily motion and activity we ask our bodies to perform. Rehab is always going on, especially as we get older.

We shouldn’t have to fall three stories to realize the value of movement.