Bone 101: Bone Basics
This month we are diving into the topics of bioplasticity and bone. I just went back and read through my post from (oh so long ago) 2020 on bone, which is actually quite a good primer for this discussion, so if you haven't read it, you might want to go back and check it out.
I want to build on the topics I mentioned in my previous post, to further explore the dynamic nature of bone, and how we are teaching our bone to behave with every movement we perform. This week, we look at the general truths about bone, in order to clearly identify how to move in ways that support our support structures.
1) Our bone is anisotropic
Scientists starting with Gallileo observed the relation between bone mass and mass of animals. They noticed the fineness of bird bones (indeed, still unfortunately used as a phrase to this day), and they observed the chunky femoral bones of heavy mammals.
The ability for bone to change in relation to the forces it is subjected to, is known as anisotropy.
In biology, we note that bone is subject to Wolff's Law ( described by Julius Wolff an anatomist and surgeon) which states that bone, in a healthy animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.
Notice the term healthy. What happens when bone does not adapt? This can happen in conditions of the thyroid (such as Grave's Disease which I developed in 2015), parathyroid, long term use of steroids, Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other systemic conditions.
**When these conditions are present, please consult with your doc first and foremost before starting any movement practice.
This first point is why maintaining muscle, and metabolic tissue is so important as we age. We do not want to get smaller and smaller- losing our precious muscle and bone! For this reason, making sure that our BMIs do not get too low, and also are comprised of lean body mass is (I'm sure all of us know) and important endeavor as we age.
2) Our bone is highly vascularized and innervated- it is bioplastic
I love the term innervated- it gives me the linguistic impression of jazz hands. When a tissue is highly vascular (it has lush blood coursing through it) and innervated with rich nerve supply, it is highly changeable, highly adaptable.
When we identify vascular and innervated tissue, we encounter tissue that is bioplastic. Bioplastic is a term that I first heard while attending training through the NOI Group - and I find it to be so meaningful.
I have adapted this definition from neuroplasticity (the capacity for nerve tissue to transform and change based on how it is used and cared for), to be more general so we can apply it to every tissue in the body.
• The ability of all cells to alter structure and function in response to internal and external stimuli
• Stimuli may be physical, psychological, cognitive
Because of the bioplastic highly changeable nature of bone, it is constantly remodeling. We will look at this remodeling process (in a very simple way- this is a highly sophisticated biological process), next week and during our Building Good Bones workshop this month.
3) How we move shapes our bones
Like water running over rock, our movement sculpts our bones. Just as if we changed a current, changing our movement and biomechanics changes the signal in how our bones develop.
Bones, like muscle, enjoy a Goldilocks experience- they do not like to be over compressed, or under compressed. Either condition can result in- bone fatigue (and ultimately, fracture), bone growth or bone reabsorption.
When we over or under compress bone for a long period of time, sometimes bone will grow into spaces where it is not intended to- it will hypertrophy growing into a joint space and creating a narrowing where there once was patency (in the spine we call this stenosis, elsewhere in the body we call it arthritis).
I have mentioned this before, but as bone is growing, it is important to think of it as new. It is not the hardened stuff of your mature strong thigh (femur) bones- no! It is the consistency and density of say, toothpaste. In this phase, all is possible. You can make changes to the growth in this space, preserving your mobility.
In order to make a change, you must be will to work with changing the over/ under compression issue.
In order to change the outcome of your tissue, change the conditions you are exposing it to.
Over this month, we will explore more of these issues relating to the dynamic, ever changing nature of our highly vascular and innervates bone tissue.
Join us next week when we dive into a (highly simplified) version of our bone remodeling processes, and consider joining us Practical Strength crew for our workshop on Building Good Bones, coming up on April 24 .
Until then, happy moving!
The Goldilocks situation (with respect to the medial- the inside- knee compartment): just right (pic on left), too much compression (middle pic), too little compression (pic on right). Both too much and too little compression can fatigue and kill cartilage, and signal for bone to grow excessively (bone hypertrophy), and painfully into our joint space unless we change the alignment of our bones through improved strength and biomechanics.