Last week, I briefly described exercise as a supportive measure to help your tissue tolerance. Tissue tolerance refers to the amount of stress the structural components of your body can handle before they are injured. In the case of hard tissues such as bones, tissue tolerance refers to the strength of the bone and how much stress it can handle before it is fractured. In the case of muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage, tissue tolerance refers to how much stress these structures can endure before they are over-stretched, partially torn or even completely torn. Injury to hard or soft tissue may occur as a result of a high energy force like a fall or direct hit. Most commonly, our bodies are injured by repetitive motions throughout the day. Just as the persistence of a river will break down the rocks, repetitive stress on your body can wear down your bones, joints and the soft tissues that hold it all together.
It is for this very reason that exercise is listed as a supportive measure. Motion is life. If a part of your body is not moving properly, the structures in that area will weaken and break down. Therefore, if certain joints in your body are moving improperly, the abnormal stress concentration in those areas will have a more deleterious effect on the related hard and soft tissues. For example, if your knee is experiencing mild rotation from its normal positioning, the soft tissues that hold the joint together as well as the meniscus inside of the knee experience repetitive forces that will accelerate the degenerative process of that joint.
To summarize, motion is life and if you are not moving, you are deteriorating. Exercise is an absolutely vital supportive measure to improve the strength and durability of your total structure. However, if you are exercising an area that is improperly moving, you are contributing to the problem. Whether or not your body is moving in a healthy manner cannot be determined by the level of pain perceived. The only way find out if your spine and extremities are moving properly is by discussing your mechanics with a professional who specializes in that type of non-pathological diagnosis. I recommend talking to a Doctor of Chiropractic who has extensive training in extremity biomechanics in addition to spinal biomechanics.