Protect Your Joints With Safe, Appropriate Exercise
By John C. Kagan, M.D. –
Baby boomers are redefining what it means to age gracefully by pushing the boundaries and setting the example for what can be accomplished, especially in fitness.
Consider Arthur Gilbert, the world’s oldest triathlete at 91, or Don Pelman, 97, a record-breaking sprinter. Linda Brown was 63 when she earned the title of the world’s oldest competitive wakeboarder and Philippa Raschker, 66, has won more than 109 Masters World Championship medals in track and field events. She’ll be competing in the 2013 Master World Championships in Brazil this October.
While these individuals grab headlines because their achievements are so extraordinary, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that staying physically active and fit well into the senior years is now becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Physical activity helps maintain muscle mass and strong bones. It reduces stress levels and increases stamina, promotes flexibility and balance, and keeps joints healthier. It can also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
But at the same time, it’s important to be aware of the limitations that age can have on fitness level. Doctors are seeing a growing number of seniors with sports injuries – everything from tennis elbow and runner’s knee to more serious degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis of the joints. In fact, the AAOS reports that bone and joint issues are the leading cause of more than half of all chronic conditions in people over age 50.
Osteoarthritis, which causes a degeneration of cartilage that cushions the bones in the hip, knee and other joints, can be quite painful. Without cartilage providing a protective covering, the ends of the bones rub together, leading to inflammation, the development of bone spurs and stiffness in the joint.
Runner’s knee, tennis elbow, sprains and stress fractures are not related to cartilage damage. Instead they’re injuries to the tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones caused by repetitive activities that stress the tissue beyond their capacity.
Treatment options for osteoarthritis or repetitive, sports injuries will depend on the extent of damage. Nonsurgical treatment options can range from rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to physical therapy and injections.
If nonsurgical options fail to provide relief, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. Chronic pain from severe osteoarthritis may require joint replacement surgery.
Physical activity is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle no matter what your age. Keep in mind these simple steps to reduce your potential for injury.
- Always consult your physician before beginning a new fitness program if you’ve been sedentary for a while
- Gradually increase physical activity levels
- Listen to your body; know your limits and don’t expect the same level of fitness you experienced in your 20s or 30s
- Vary your routine to incorporate weight-bearing high-impact activities such as running or tennis with low-impact activities such as swimming or bicycling
- Include activities that increase balance, stretching and flexibility
- Don’t work through pain; call the doctor if pain limited range of motion and swelling persist
John Kagan, M.D., is a successful board-certified orthopedic surgeon who has been treating patients in Fort Myers and Cape Coral for more than 30 years. For more information about orthopedic-related conditions and treatment options, go to www.kaganortho.com/learn-more or call the office for a consultation at 239-936-6778.