LIFETIME EXPOSURE TO CONCRETE AND OTHER HARD SURFACES
Spending boyhood summers on my grandfather’s farm in Inman, Kansas, I had the opportunity to see the effects of concrete on the human body. If we were out working in the shop (a cavernous building that housed farm equipment and the welding / tool area) I would take every chance I could to shoot baskets. My grandfather would sometimes complain how the concrete bothered his hips, and he would sit down or go out and walk around the yard, while I continued to shoot. I didn’t “get it”. But at 14 or 15 years old, who would? In my mind, the concrete floor provided the perfect surface for hooping it up. Rapidly approaching 50, I GET IT NOW.
My first clinic here in Mountain View (we moved to our CURRENT LOCATION in 1996), was the old Liberty Bell building, across from Gas Plus and catty corner from Veteran’s Park. The floor was concrete, with a thin layer (very thin layer) of cheap outdoor carpeting glued directly to the concrete floor. I spent four years there, and despite being 25 years old when I started seeing patients at that location, I figured out real quick that I did not want to spend the rest of my life working on concrete.
My current clinic has a basement underneath, which means I do not have to work on concrete. My floors are all Missouri hardwood (oak) that was manufactured right here in MV. The result is that it is much easier on my bones and joints. But what about some of you? I know people who live in houses with concrete floors. They work on concrete (or other hard surfaces such as steel). They go to church on concrete. They send their children to school on concrete. And some even exercise (run or walk) on concrete. If you are one of those who is spending lots of time on concrete, you should be asking yourself what you could do to make things easier for yourself as you get older.
Like many other things (sun over-exposure for instance), the effects of concrete are accumulative. The problem is that most of us will never see these effects until said problem jumps up and bites you. As far as the particular problems that can be caused (or at the very least, exacerbated) by spending time on concrete, and particularly running or exercising on concrete, include PLANTAR FASCIITIS, OSGOOD SCHLATTERS, ILLIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDRROME, various kinds of TENDINOSIS (KNEE, ACHILES, POSTERIOR TIBIALIS, etc), hip or knee BURSITIS, PATELLO-FEMORAL SYNDROME (aka Patellar Tracking Syndrome), CHRONIC MUSCLE STRAINS, SHIN SPLINTS, as well as an array of problems associated with DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS / DEGENERATIVE DISCS. And that’s just for starters. There are many people who simply hurt if they have to spend any real time on concrete.
What steps can be taken to minimize the effects of concrete on your body? There are many, and most are easy, inexpensive, and common sense.
- IF POSSIBLE, LIVE / WORK ON ANOTHER SURFACE: Concerning work, this is probably not an option for most people if their job is on concrete. However, if you get the chance to get off the concrete, by all means get off the concrete. Particularly true if you are living on concrete. If you do live on concrete, figure out what can be done to dampen its effects on your joints.
- PROPER FOOTWEAR, INCLUDING ORTHOTICS: Good shoes / boots are worth their weight in gold. Cheap shoes will cost you in the long run. I am not here to promote certain brands; just stick with good, solid products. As for you runners, you may want to utilize a store that provides video gait analysis when you purchase your footwear. It is entirely too easy to purchase a shoe that initially feels comfortable —- until you start wondering whether it’s causing the new problems you are experiencing. I’ve seen this many a time in runners wearing shoes made to stabilize pronation by driving them into supination, even though they are already a high-arched supinator.
- ANTI-FATIGUE / ANTI-SHOCK MATS: There are many kinds of these, which can be put at your workstation(s). Most people don’t need anything that is cushy and and extra thick, as these can be unstable. This is something your company should be paying for.
- RUN / EXERCISE ON SOFTER SURFACES: Better to stay off both, but if you choose to run on a hard surface, asphalt has significantly more give to it than concrete. Fortunately, most newer gyms have rubber floors. Our school track has a rubberized surface and is open to the public. Also, because so many of my local patients live in the country, a simple solution to this is to mow a trail through your pasture, and make some woods trails as well. Walking on undulating surfaces is much better for your feet and lower extremities (not to mention your spine) because they stimulate much more PROPRIOCEPTION than do flat surfaces.
- STRENGTH, CORE STRENGTH AND STRETCHING PROTOCOL: As I have shown you repeatedly, don’t neglect CORE STRENGTH or GENERAL STRENGTH TRAINING. STRETCHING can be beneficial as well. Failing to train means you are training to fail.
- BODYWORK: Adhesions, restrictions, and MICROSCOPIC SCAR TISSUE create ugly situations as far as creating pain is concerned. Various forms of body work such as massage, CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS, TISSUE REMODELING, etc can be fantastic not only as far as bringing relief is concerned, but can actually help get rid of underlying mechanical issues (SOME EXAMPLES).
- INVERSION: I am sold on INVERSION TABLES —- and I don’t even sell them. Starting an inversion protocol after they’ve developed pain is what most people do. If you will instead start before you have problems, it will be helpful as far as holding Degenerative Arthritis (particularly DEGENERATIVE DISCS) at bay.
- CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT: Because OBESITY / OVERWEIGHT is actually one of the dozens of problems considered to be “INFLAMMATORY,” I could just have easily made this point read, “CONTROL INFLAMMATION“. Bottom line; if you are forced to spend time on concrete, the last thing you want to be is heavy (or inflamed), which are both the equivalent of your joints being hit over and over by a bigger hammer.