Joints lose lubrication over time and soft tissues lose some natural elasticity. These changes increase the risk of overuse injuries in seniors. This isn’t just a problem for older adults routinely participating in sports like golf and tennis that require repetitive motions. Even the act of regularly reaching and stretching could contribute to overuse injuries.
What Causes Overuse Injuries in Seniors?
Highly active seniors aren’t the only older adults who can be affected by overuse injuries. Issues of this nature can also affect older adults who either only focus on one type of exercise, like walking, or those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Overuse injuries are caused by any type of motion that’s repeated too much. What this does is place added stress on soft tissues, joints, and bones.
The problem can be exasperated by underlying health issues that might include arthritis and fibromyalgia. Symptoms related to overuse injuries in seniors include:
- Pain during or immediately after activities
- Discomfort aggravated by certain movements
- Shooting pain either within the affected area or in nearby areas
- Burning sensations and aching
- Weakness that extends to nearby limbs
- Difficulty with daily activities, like climbing steps, chopping vegetables, and opening doors
- Pain that makes it difficult to sleep through the night
How Are Overuse Injuries Treated?
Treatment for overuse injuries usually involves anti-inflammatory medications to ease discomfort as tissues and joints heal. Physical therapy also tends to be beneficial since a customized PT plan focuses on improving muscle strength and stretching the affected area in a way that’s safe and effective. If the injury is severe, surgery may be recommended to correct damage to joints or soft tissues.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Overuse Injuries?
Doing one type of exercise, whether it’s biking, walking, or swimming, increases the risk of developing overuse injuries since the same muscle groups are used. Instead, it’s best for older adults to target all core muscle groups. One way to do this is with cross-training. A comprehensive fitness plan of this nature includes:
- Anaerobic exercises like weight-training
- Walking, jogging, swimming, and other aerobic exercises
- Flexibility exercises that might include yoga or tai chi
- Cardiovascular exercises
Seniors may be able to prevent overuse injuries by doing regular warm-ups and stretches to keep joints and supporting ligaments, tendons, and muscles flexible. Making an effort to avoid repetitive movements can be helpful as well. Lastly, managing underlying conditions such as arthritis with medication and physical therapy may further reduce the risk of of developing injuries due to overuse.