Aside from an issue you were born with or an acute injury, if you’re in pain it’s almost certainly from either misuse or disuse. The human body is incredibly resilient but years of misuse will cause it to break down. And if you just sit on a couch all day, your body will no longer be useful.
How Misuse Damages Your Body
It’s not difficult to understand that the human body is designed to work a specific way. This doesn’t mean that you have to squat the exact same way every single time because that’s a virtual impossibility in the real world. What it does mean is that joints are designed to track certain ways in certain directions and long-term deviation from these directions does damage.
For example, knees are designed to mostly hinge open and closed. They do allow for a little bit of rotation, but not much. The load on the knee over time should balance roughly between outside and inside. However, if you are consistently loading the inside of your knee more than the outside of the knee, the shape and function of your joint will change in the long run.
In the extreme of the above example, you may end up tearing structural parts of the joint. Things like MCL and ACL tears are becoming extremely common. I would say alarmingly common.
Beyond just the extra wear and tear on the joint, the muscles and connective tissues around the joint become habituated to the uneven loads. The tissues receiving more attention will become more developed while the other tissues will be less developed. This further compounds the problem since the joint can no longer work in balance. The weaker muscles will have to work much harder to keep up with the stronger muscles and you can end up with tension, strain, and injuries.
How Disuse Damages Your Body
The human body isn’t just designed to move. It’s designed to move a lot. The lymph system has no pump. It instead relies on regular muscle contraction to move the lymph fluid through the system. And even though the heart primes the circulatory system, the muscles do much of the work to pull blood into them and push it back out. Muscles that are starved for nutrients, which inactivity contributes to, will be tight and weak.
Beyond that, we are a use it or lose it system. Muscles are expensive from a nutritional standpoint and the body won’t maintain muscle mass if it’s not useful. When you sit around doing nothing, you allow the furniture your sitting on to do the postural work your muscles should be doing.
Over time your muscles weaken to the point they can no longer do their jobs properly. Then you end up with pain because you are regularly in positions your body isn’t designed to work from. This postural collapse can also cause unnatural pressure on joints and nerves that leads to more pain. Over the very long term, this postural collapse leads to bone deformation.
How To Avoid Pain From Misuse And Disuse
The best things you can do to avoid this pain is to learn to use your body in an efficient manner. One of the things I like about MOVNAT is that the whole system is based around this concept. Get educated and recondition your body so you use it the way it was designed.
The best way to get educated is with a competent coach who can analyze your movement patterns and offer corrections or corrective exercises when necessary. There really is no substitute for good one-on-one coaching. You can also get enough training so that you can do this for yourself.
And the next important thing is to move often. Don’t pack all your movement into a 1-hour workout every day. Spread it out throughout the day. Get up from your desk every hour and move and stretch. Pull over the car on that road trip and take a quick walk.
Staying in the same position for long periods of time molds your body into those positions. It’s much easier to prevent the problem than it is to fix it. Prevent muscle atrophy by minimizing body supporting furniture and clothing. And maximize muscle use while immobile by varying your position as often as is practical.