Getting into a workout regimen is not always going to be easy, but it is important for overall health. One of the biggest hesitations voiced by seniors is the fear that exercise and strength training will cause injury or agitate an existing injury.
While it is important to rest and ice injury, the worst thing to do is avoid activity all together. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the ailment, working on your range of motion, and enhancing core stability and balance will expedite the healing process and prevent further injury.
Michelle Buker, director of wellness at Colonial in Southwest Ohio shed some light on the five most common senior ailments and how to treat them.
Lower back pain
Lower back pain can happen for a variety of reasons as this is an intricate structure with highly sensitive nerves, tendons and soft disks. In many cases, lower back pain can be lessened or eliminated by strengthening the abdominal muscles, stretching the hamstring muscles in the back of your legs, and using warm and cold compresses. Physical therapy or surgery may be necessary for some.
Characterized by inflammation or irritation of the tendon (the thick cord that attaches bone to muscle), commonly occurs in the elbow or wrist and is often caused by repetitive minor impact or a sudden more serious injury. Rest and ice the affected area for 24-48 hours, then work on strengthening the muscles around the joint with light weights or an elastic band.
Commonly characterized by stabbing pain in the heel that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning, plantar fasciitis is very common among seniors. Make sure you have proper footwear like orthopedic shoes or inserts, stretch the Achilles Tendon and perform range of motion exercises to help the pain. In addition, use cold compresses and stretch lightly before bed. Using a lacrosse or tennis ball to massage the heel of your foot can also help, though it may be painful at first.
Stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint could indicate the need for surgery or the injection of corticosteroids and numbing medication. However, stretch and massage can also help.
Knees and hips
Pain in the knees and hips is common among seniors and can occur for many reasons. Generally, strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joint to create joint stability and use cold and warm compresses. Proper nutrition and water intake will also help cushion the joints and relieve pain. In many cases, losing weight can greatly alleviate the pain and aqua aerobics or swimming is a good place to start.
Buker added that overall, improving core stability, balance and strength is essential to all human movement. Because all extremities originate from the core (or mid-section), all functional movement is generated there. When the core is working at its highest potential, we reduce the risk of injuries elsewhere.
Emily Glaser writes about the diverse wellness needs of older adults for Your Time, a Community First Solutions publication for people age 50 and older.