Improper Biomechanics and Disease

Improper Biomechanics and Disease

Although most people think of the cells in our body as floating around in some sort of biologic liquid, the fact is that all the cells in our body are interconnected by a matrix of proteins. A popular phrase in that you hear is “the whole body is connected”. When many say or hear this phrase they tend to think of connectivity via a mysterious energy, meridian, or aura. While the body does possess these important energy pathways, many tend to forget or are not aware of the literal/physical connection that all cells in the body have with each other and the great importance the physical connectivity of the body’s cells has on your health.

The cells of the body have many avenues for communication with each other so that we can adapt and survive in our constantly changing environment. The most commonly known communication pathways are the nervous system and the endocrine system which control function in the body via electrical and chemical signals. What is less commonly known is that the body also dictates function mechanically through signals via the extra-cellular matrix of proteins that connect every cell in the body. This process is called mechanotransduction. 

Mechanotransduction can regulate gene expression and has influence on all systems of the body such as the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, and immune system. Compromised mechanotransduction via changes in the extra-cellular matrix of the body can lead to cellular dysfunction and overtime cause noticeable health issues. Here are a few conditions thought to be associated with compromised mechanotransduction via the extra-cellular matrix: hypertension, angina, migraine, stroke, chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, sexual dysfunction, asthma, and even cancer!

Common causes of abnormal mechanotransduction are improper exercise technique, old/new injuries, improper footwear (high heals ladies!), nutritional deficiencies, chronic stress, and poor posture which lead to what I refer to as a “compensation patterns”. Compensation patterns are a component of your body’s survival mechanism to keep you moving no matter what. Compensation patterns are a good thing in the short term. For example you sprain your ankle while escaping a burning building and your body shifts weight to the other ankle so you can keep running out of the building.

However, staying with the same example, after your sprained ankle is healed your body may not revert back to a normal walking/running pattern neurologically and most likely the “healed” ankle has reduced range of motion due to scar tissue build up around the injury. While you may not be conscious of these changes your body has made, long-term the changes can lead to dysfunction of local and distant joints, muscles, and nerves which typically manifest as a painful joint, a chronically “tight” muscle, or pain with a certain activity. If you then ignore the painful joint or other symptoms, your body will begin to compensate for this secondary injury, leading to more serious dysfunction. Each divergence from normal motion causes more damage to the extracellular matrix and interferes with mechanotransduction via scar tissue reducing motion of the matrix, inflammatory chemicals that change the structural integrity of the matrix, and poor posture leading to increased/decreased tension in various parts of the matrix.

The good news is that abnormal mechanotransduction can typically be restored overtime to normal or closer to normal depending on the severity of the mechanical dysfunction. Therapies targeted at restoring normal body mechanics, remodeling of scar tissue, and reduction of inflammation in the body are the way positive changes can be made. Some examples of this are targeted chiropractic adjustments, cold laser therapy, massage, exercise education, acupuncture/acupressure, nutritional support and orthotic devices to name a few. These compensation patterns are sometimes difficult to diagnose and unique to each indivdual, so make sure you partner with a health professional who is trained in identifying imbalances and abnormal patterns in the body such as an applied kinesiologist or other skilled practitioner.

Key Concepts:

  • The body communicates via physical connectivity of the body’s cells, referred to as mechanotransduction.
  • Mechanotransduction can control gene expression and effects all systems of the body.
  • There is a correlation between improper biomechanics and disease via altered mechanotransduction.
  • Abnormal mechanotransduction can be due to physical and chemical compensation patterns.
  • Many times you can go a long time with out any symptoms because of your body’s ability to compensate for areas of poor function.
  • Restoring normal body mechanics and reversing compensation patterns via chiropractic adjustments, cold laser therapy, exercise education, nutrition, massage and other mechanical therapies should be a component of your health regime.


Source: “Mechanobiology and Diseases of Mechanotransduction”, Donald E Ingber, Annuls of Medicine, 2003; 35: 1-14.

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