The body is an amazing thing. I contemplate the complexity of this machine we are gifted with multiple times a day. Two weeks ago my brother and his wife welcomed in to the world a beautiful daughter. I was fortunate enough to hold her within a few hours after she was born. I am sure most parents feel the wonderment and excitement when they hold their child in their arms for the first time, and I felt I realized a part of that having her in my arms. Here was this child barely 2 hours old looking at me with her 2-hour old eyes, squirming in her blanket, and occasionally letting out a cry to test out her brand new vocal cords and respiratory control. She was just a few hours removed from the warmth and comfort of INSIDE my sister-in-law. Wow.
The next week my other two nieces visited for the weekend, ages 4 and 7. Oh what a wonderful time in life and what many of us would give to go back to that period in life. We spent a good amount of time at massive Spring Canyon Park, as did most of Fort Collins with young kids on the warm February Saturday afternoon. As I was between pushing the girls on the swing, playing tag, and balancing out the teeter-totter, I marveled at the actions of all the kids on the playground. It was as if the playground took on a life form with kids swarming in and out, up and down, side to side. Kids were crawling, jumping, falling, screaming, laughing, running, rolling, climbing, balancing, chasing, dodging, exploring, discovering, creating. Very young children who seemed to have just established bipedal ambulation were trying to adjust and figure out the undulating terrain and external protuberances from fellow kids. Older kids were testing the limits of their body’s capabilities by running faster and jumping higher, primarily it seems in an effort to give chase after or from a fellow adolescent. A group of even older teens, primarily males, where actually doing flips and twists off of rocks no doubt in an effort to impress nearby females.
I felt like Jane Goodall immersed in a jungle full of chimpanzees in Tanzania. As I was playing tag I felt that there was a moment that these creatures accepted me as their own. There may have been a point where I thought to bring a notebook to jot down notes of the peculiar behaviors of The Children of Spring Canyon Park.
At what point do we lose the ability to be more child-like? Sure, our frontal lobe continues to develop into our early twenties to assist in making better and less risky life decisions. But what about the aspects of movement and laughter and play and creativity that children have? I couldn’t help but wonder how much healthier adults would be if we would continue to crawl, jump, fall, scream, laugh, run, roll, climb, balance, chase, dodge, explore, discover, and create as children do. We need adult playgrounds to go in and out, up and down, and side to side. All the while chasing and moving and having fun and LAUGHING. Oh the laughter at a busy park. The screams of joy and fun that were not coming from parents standing idly on the periphery of the playground, but rather from the blur of activity within the playground from tiny humans.
In the medical world I think we sometimes forget how neurologically complex the body is. The playground and my new niece reminded me of how incredible our life form is. We sometimes look at our body as a home improvement project rather than appreciate just how amazingly complex it is. If something hurts, we often think it needs to be strengthened or stretched or mashed tenderloin-like by a piece of foam or plastic. When in reality, we need to appreciate the neurological complexities that are driving system irregularity resulting in symptoms and pain. We need to appreciate the system integration of our sensory, visual, vestibular, and musculo-skeletal system and how they interact together to create this amazing and intricate body. A recent teenager was sent to me with neck and back pain that has been ongoing for many months. After a little digging, we found out her eyes have not been working well together. Her neck and back have been compensating to help stabilize and orient her visual system. She didn’t need a physical therapist for her neck and back pain, she needed an optometrist!
Then, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet up with some physical therapists and a dentist, Dr. Wehking, in Lafayette. Dr. Wehking appreciates the complexity of our body and understands the importance of system integration. Many people get referred to her for jaw and cranial fascial pain. However, she understands that as she changes a patient’s occlusion she is also affecting neck, back, and pelvic mechanics. Very cool to see the excitement in her eyes when she discusses the relationship between pelvic floor dysfunction and an abnormal bite.
Future comprehensive health care needs to have different health professions integrating and working together. My little niece, only 2 hours old, didn’t seem to have one system working independently of others. Her body was helping her visual system discover the world as her occasional crying was developing vocal function, respiratory diaphragm opposition, and abdominal and pelvic floor muscle activation. Her rooting and sucking reflex was assisting in developing cranial shape and stability. The kids on the playground do a profound job at integrating their systems as they play, laugh, and create. They were using each other and their systems to move, think, and feel. As adults we need to appreciate the integration of our different systems and not lose touch with our inner child to stay healthy. Don’t be afraid to find your personal playground in order to integrate your systems to crawl, jump, fall, scream, laugh, run, roll, climb, balance, chase, dodge, explore, discover, and create.
This video was another inspiration for the blog this month. Check it out and get motivated to be more like a kid! “Kid President’s Letter to a Person on their First Day Here.”
This post was written by Craig Depperschmidt, DPT, PRC
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