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Monday, December 27, 2010

What Would a Caveman Do?

Post provided by Barbara Bergin, MD

In my opinion you’ve got to consider your body from a different perspective than you have been. It’s all about protecting our bodies for a very long life. It’s not about overworking them. It’s not about wearing them out. It’s not about high impact exercise and forcing our bodies to do things they weren’t meant to do.

I can’t say that I’ve stuck to this concept during my lifetime, but I’m asking you to follow my line of thought. I’m asking my kids in particular to listen, because at this time in my life I care more about their future happiness than I do my own. When I was given my children, I was given that Faberge egg; that finest of things I could hold in my hands.

But unlike the Faberge egg, these lovely possessions of mine have a mind of their own. They get to make choices about what they want to do with their minds and their bodies. But I can try my best to give them the tools they need to maintain their shine and value. And I want to share some of that with you, my reader.

Protection of that beautiful packaging you were born with, will be one of the most important things you can do to ensure happiness into and through your “golden years” (if ever there was a description more inappropriately used, it was this one).

There are a couple of important concepts and the sooner you understand these concepts, the more quickly you will come to understand what I’m talking about and the sooner you will start to be able to make your own decisions regarding the way you deal with your body; not only your musculoskeletal system, but your whole body and mind.

So here goes;

1: The human in the form of homo sapiens, has really not evolved in about a hundred thousand years.

2: Our bodies weren’t put together to last much past the age of about 25.

I don’t know how I decided that these two concepts were of key importance in telling you how to protect your bodies from the ravages of age. Maybe it was through reading. Maybe it started in college when I was taking comparative anatomy. Maybe it has to do with my own physical experiences and those of my patients. But as I try to impart my knowledge to you, I will remind you of those concepts and ask you to think about what a caveman would do. What would a caveman do? Maybe that will be our mantra.

Homo sapiens (that’s us), pretty much stopped evolving once we became intelligent. So I can’t sit here and say that we stopped evolving 100,000 years ago, or 125,000 years ago. But whenever we became smart enough to start modifying our environment, we stopped evolving.

Evolution is a process by which the species improves its ability to survive and reproduce. The function and the appearance of the organism changes so that they are better equipped to thrive in a given environment. In the natural world, this is an ongoing process. But once humans began to be able to modify the environment to compensate for our weaknesses, evolution essentially came to a standstill. We are no longer improving and in fact, as a species, we might even be devolving.

Let me give a simple example. Let’s talk about the anterior cruciate ligament. That’s something that’s dear to my heart, not just because I do bunches of operations on folks who have torn their ACLs, but because I have torn mine and I’ve had three other close blood relatives who have torn theirs. That means that my family is pre-disposed to tearing their ACLs and I have likely passed on the crummy ACL gene to my children. And if each of my kids has two kids and their kids have two kids…you do the math, mainly because I can’t.

But no potential spouse is going to count my kids out as a result of some theoretical potential to tear their ACLs or have kids with weak ACLs. However, if we were cavemen and living closer to a time when reproducing adults selected potential mates based on the appearance of vitality, the ability to get food and the ability to care for their offspring in the natural world, then a limping cave girl/boy would be rejected, just like a limping mare will be rejected by the stallion or vice versa. That lameness, no matter what the cause, would be naturally rejected as a potential weakness and over time, the knee ligaments of the human species would have improved rather than worsened, because we humans, as a species, have got to have some of the crummiest pieces of crap for knee ligaments and cartilages in the world of animals.

We learned how to modify our environment to keep from hurting our knees. We learned how to compensate for weak knees by being charming and having more things to entice potential mates other than the strength of our knees and bodies. And finally we learned how to do surgery on knees. As a species, our knee ligaments will NEVER get any better and in fact our predisposition to knee cartilage and ligament injuries will only get worse with the decades as people with bad knees get together and have babies with doubly bad knees!

I really want you to understand this concept because it is essential to understanding the way we are and why we have pain and disease. Hope you followed me and hope you see the correlation to human knee ligaments…and for a lot of things for that matter; like hypertension, diabetes, and a funny shape to the bones of our shoulders which predisposes us to having problems with our rotator cuffs (I’ll talk about that later).

This is an abbreviated verson of Dr. Bergin's Caveman blogs, to read more visit her blog at

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