Let’s talk about the term degenerative,
This term is frequently used subsequent to medical imaging. Now this is not to discredit imaging or the physician’s expertise. However often many patients are left with questions, concerns and negative thoughts regarding their physical wellbeing.
Definition as per Merriam Webster Dictionary- Degenerate:
– having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state
– one degraded from the normal standard over time
Let’s take degenerative out of context as it pertains to our own bodies and apply it to your car. When you purchase a brand-new car, the car runs great and every amenity works as it should. You start driving the car to work, shopping and maybe the gym. On weekends, maybe you take that new car for a road trip; (we all know how the roads are), or you must be in 3 places at once for your kid’s sporting events and recitals. Miles start racking up on the car, NORMAL wear and tear occurs as you drive the car daily. After so many miles the car requires some maintenance and upkeep, in order to keep the car running and driving well. If we don’t, we add stress to our car, maybe it doesn’t start as well or run as smoothly anymore. If one adheres to upkeep and regular maintenance, the NORMAL DAILY wear and tear of the vehicle can be kept to insignificant to minimal effect. The car will be a reliable vehicle for well over 200,000 miles, however, it’s far from brand new; maybe a little rust and maybe not be as shiny as it once was but nonetheless a reliable car.
This car can be analogous to us as humans. Every day our bodies are subjected to daily stressors, NORMAL wear and tear as we put “miles” on them. So far, despite the 3a.m infomercial, there has not been a fountain of youth to turn back time, thus getting older and “degenerating” is a normal process. When we start to note wrinkles on our face it’s not called degenerative skin disease, it’s aging. As humans we are more accepting of this fact as we consider it normal and expected. Why is it harder to accept our internal structures, bones and joints react the same way? Our structures are designed for shock absorption, safety and protection thus bearing the load and enduring normal wear and tear of adding miles to our body. Through scheduled maintenance or “oil changes” we can minimize the effects of the daily stress, but it’s bound to occur. Instead of the negative thoughts associated with “degeneration or degradation” how about we associate the wonderful experiences we had; all the sporting events, activities and accomplishments those hard-earned miles got you. After all we may not have ended in this current situation as a result of negative reasons. The athletic career we lead growing up, the insurmountable weight you tried to lift in the gym, the career you chose to support your family, the children you held and cared for; all the home improvement projects and maintenance all have a positive story to who we are today.
Just like the old faithful car, we are able to function daily despite the degenerative changes that most of us know nothing about until we are told through imaging. The only thought that I am trying to provoke here today is that the term degeneration is not bad or a terminal sentence, it’s a normal process as we put miles on our body that occur over many years.