A Symbol of Support and Potential
Each branch of medical practice has its own interesting history, and orthopedics is no exception. While the name itself may not have a direct correlation to muscles, tendons, or bones, the idea behind the origin of the word still rings true in modern practice. For me, its most meaningful nuances reside in the image that has become the universal symbol for orthopedics: the crooked tree.
The image is a simple one, portraying a crooked sapling tethered to a straight stake. The metaphor goes hand in hand with the literal translation behind the word “orthopedics,” as well as with the intention of the man who, though he didn’t necessarily invent the practice, gave it a name, face, and purpose. Nicholas Andry, a French physician and writer, published a book in 1741 about “Orthopédie,” or “the art of correction and preventing deformities in children.” Coined by combining the Greek words “orthos,” meaning straight, and “paidos,” meaning children, this denomination had a very specific meaning at the time. Today, the field of orthopedics has morphed into something much broader.
Andry’s book wasn’t aimed at doctors or scientists but was meant as a guide for parents to understand the importance of taking care of their children’s bodies in order to help them lead healthy lives. The practices listed were new for their time and have gone on to form the basic pillars of orthopedics for those of any age. But it’s not just the content of the book that has captivated readers and practitioners for centuries. The book’s cover, which introduced the crooked tree, has given just as much purpose to the practices it protected within its pages. Originally intended to symbolize the correction of physical deformities in children, the tree and its supportive stake have gone on to become a powerful symbol for the entire field of orthopedics. When a bent tree is braced to a straight object, it will slowly help the tree to stand upright and find alignment once again.
Our goal at Atlas Physical Therapy is to help our patients align their bodies closer to the ideal functional structure so that they can lead healthier lives. If you optimize your body to distribute your weight and bearing evenly, you give it the opportunity to function as intended. Having the proper alignment starts from the ground up, from feet to head, and manifests greatly in the spine, where humans find their center of balance. So, if you can achieve proper alignment of your spine, you can feel like your healthiest and happiest self. If the spine is crooked or out of alignment, not only is there increased potential for injury but also, your body simply can’t move the way it was naturally built to move. The practice of physical therapy is like the stake supporting the crooked tree: With the proper care and positioning, after some time, patience, and willingness to work, your body can be brought back into its ideal position and continue to cultivate healthy growth.
Even though the creation of the crooked tree was originally intended to help parents keep their children healthy, the symbolism and message behind it still ring with much truth for practicing physical therapists like me, even hundreds of years later. We practice orthopedic physical therapy in an effort to help you lead a healthy life. We’re here to aid in your journey to find your alignment and build an ideal structure so that you can lead a pain-free life full of exciting potential.
Do you have back pain, difficulty with walking or other ailments that can benefit from physical therapy? Give us a call today at West Orange, NJ center to schedule an appointment and take an important step to becoming a healthier you!