A common cause of orthopedic injury is over-training. Working out at the gym, playing your favorite sport, or even walking can be the root cause of a multitude of orthopedic injuries. The key to managing these types of injuries may lie in adjusting your routine to fit your age.
People in their teens and twenties tend to handle joint and muscle stress quite well. I routinely see young patients who have strained a muscle and are able to get back onto the playing field within a weeks time. The younger crowd in general have efficient circulatory systems: tendons are well vascularized and muscles are able to purge themselves of the metabolic by-products of exercise quite quickly.
Those of us in our thirties know a different story. I for one notice one large difference in my body: Although I do not feel that my strength is perceptibly different than what it was in my twenties, I simply cannot recover from exercise as quickly. I used to be able to exercise five times weekly. Now that I am nearing forty years of age, I can manage three to four exercise sessions per week. If I do not allow my body to rest and recover, I start to feel achy in my joints, and, at times, I will even feel the early signs of tendonitis in my elbows and knees.
In your forties there are discernible differences in muscle and joint tissue compared to earlier in life. Research has shown that our muscle mass begins to significantly decline. When looking at an MRI of a typical forty-something, it is entirely normal to see “wear and tear” in the cartilage of the knee and degeneration of the discs in the lumbar spine.
Nobody is immune to the effects of time. Adjust your exercise routines as needed. If you are exercising with the same frequency and intensity in your fifties as you were in your twenties, you are asking for trouble. Find the “new normal” for you. Give yourself more time in between workouts. It is also a good idea to mix up your routine. I will frequently advise middle-aged runners to add a new type of cardio exercise to partially replace the pounding that running inflicts on the knees.
As a final note, if you are confronted with orthopedic injury as a result of training, make sure that you give yourself adequate time to heal in accordance with your age. Ask your physical therapist how much time you should take off. Your body will thank you for it.
PhysioDC Podcast: Aging and Exercise: Dealing Responsibly
Dana Logan (physical therapist) and Dan Baumstark (physical therapist) discuss age related changes and exercise modification.
Visit our PhysioDC podcast page.