Caring for Yourself: A Maintenance and Prevention Strategy Part 1

I can’t think of anything on earth that doesn’t need maintenance. My husband, Bill, points out that even the earth itself – soil – needs maintenance. Our cars, homes, tractors, power tools, and boats simply won’t perform at their best without regular attention. We can postpone maintenance for a bit but sooner or later upkeep has to be administered or the item will falter. I remember years ago a windstorm eradicated the power in our area for several days. Friends of ours were dismayed when their generator wouldn’t start. Never mind that they hadn’t cranked it up for 13 or so years – small wonder it failed them! Even the less tangible items like organizations and relationships won’t prosper without some form of attention and effort.

I can’t think of anything on earth that functions well without maintenance. Accessed at

Similarly, it seems intuitive that our bodies need maintenance as well to thwart or diminish potential health issues: flossing and brushing, colonoscopies and mammograms are examples of routine maintenance and screenings directed at preventing problems or detecting them early. We’re even willing to spend over $30 billion dollars a year in the U.S. on herbals and supplements that continue to evade solid proof they are beneficial (you can read more about this here. For what it’s worth, I still take supplements. Just a few. Just in case. My husband Bill takes zilch – doesn’t believe in them.) Yet while all this attention to bowels and breasts is admirable, many people completely overlook the connective tissue network, which constitutes roughly 45% of a man’s body weight and 35% for women. This complex network consists of bones, blood, adipose (a nice word for fat), muscles, and, of course, fascia. While integral to many life functions, the connective tissue network is also a vital component of the Movement System. Suffice it to say it’s a big and often overlooked element.

Classification of connective tissues
The classification of the connective tissues is complex, and includes many life-sustaining elements. It also serves as the basis for movement. Accessed at

I’m going to assert my perspective that EVERYONE needs a body maintenance plan – no exceptions. Furthermore, I believe that the sooner it’s embraced in life the better. I find it intriguing the number of people who do not dedicate much attention to their body until they realize they can’t get up out of a chair. I remember giving a presentation to a group of various professionals meeting to discuss tactics for helping people “age in place,” or in other words be able to stay in their home. As you might imagine, the research shows that falls are a huge factor in determining where someone lives out their days. While everyone at the presentation easily agreed that prevention is key, the next question I posed to the group was not so straightforward: when is a good time to start thinking about preventing falls? Age 70? 60? 30? I would suggest a whole lot sooner than most people do. I believe that the 12 year old with popping knees may become a 30 year old with a torn meniscus, then a 65 year old with a knee replacement, then an 80 year old who’s falling down. I hear this progression played out repeatedly as I document the history of numerous patients over the years. They call it pattern recognition. I don’t know about you but I want to avoid this pattern as much as I am able, and I want to help anyone who’s interested do the same.

Ad saying life and body maintenance begin at age 40
I support the idea of body maintenance, but totally disagree that it begins at age 40. I also am not a big fan of many popular abdominal exercises. Accessed at

While we can all likely agree that some form of body maintenance is prudent, what that looks like is subject to a plethora of opinions. Is keto or Atkins better? CrossFit or yoga? Power lifting or cardio? Water or land exercise? Low or high impact? Seems like nowadays everyone is acutely aware of how many steps comprise their day. Then there’s all the offerings in the realm of maintenance, prevention, and treatment such as massage, acupuncture, Rolfing, chiropractic, Graston, physical therapy, and so on. We are bombarded with information and options, making it difficult to navigate a best path. Surely some individuality comes into play here, reflecting personal preference, access, and baseline health status. But ultimately we need a plan, and need to begin it now instead of waiting until things start wearing out and hurting.

The advice about and options related to maintaining health are numerous and overwhelming. Internet sources unknown.

That’s what I’d like to propose: a PLAN, or at least some guidance, to help you make good choices that best direct your time, effort, and money to what may keep you healthy and mobile in the long run. Because (true confession here) I don’t want to rehab your total knee – I want to help you prevent it! What a novel construct. I would suggest it’s not only possible, but ought to be the norm as opposed to accepting that “Uncle Arthur” (some people’s synonym for arthritis) dictates that knee replacements are an inevitable part of life. I base my advice here on four pretty good sources of information:

  • 59.5 years (at this writing) of managing my own body and issues, sometimes more successfully than others.
  • 37+ years (and still going strong) in practice working with people in pain.
  • Seeing what works and what doesn’t in both realms.
  • My education.

Please don’t wait until things are broken to think about fixing them. It’s so true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and often those cures aren’t really cures at all: they’re band-aids. A stitch in time saves nine, and may also save the staples, glue, rods, screws, etc. that accompany surgery.

I’ll continue on this topic in future posts that give practical elements comprising what I consider essential to a sound maintenance and prevention plan.

Wishing you health and joy!


Published by Colleen Murphy Whiteford

I am a physiotherapist, graduate of Saint Louis University Class of 1984. I married my best friend and business partner, Bill, who is also a physiotherapist, in 1988. We have worked together all these years - an example of God's grace! Together we started Appalachian Physical Therapy which continues to thrive. I am a big believer in the power of touch, the manual therapies, and treating holistically. There are many alternatives to medications, surgeries, and testing, but people are often uninformed. My perspective emphasizes the role of the connective tissues including the fascia. Lack of attention to this structure is the source of many physical ailments - our bodies are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! I am passionate about helping people of all ages and diagnoses maximize their health, and empowering them to understand their role in management and prevention of problems.

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