What Physiotherapist’s want you to know about recovery as we get older
As a physiotherapist, I hear a lot of anecdotal stories of injuries from when people were a teenager.
“When I was younger I thought I was invincible!”
“I would get hurt and then wake up tomorrow feeling fine”
Now as persons get into their 40s, 50s and beyond, those aches and pains linger a little bit longer than we would like and become a big nuisance. Some of it has to do with age, some of it has to do with history and some of it has to do with the decisions we make every day.
Age and Recovery
As we get older, our bodies’ do begin to become less efficient. The time it takes for our cells to repair themselves goes up. We process things just a little bit slower (and not just memory and concentration wise!). This unfortunately is a natural part of the aging process. But like I’ve said in other articles (here and here), you’d be surprised how much eating well, managing stress and exercising can really help to slow those processes down. Some of the things we see with age is that we have,
• A gradual decline in muscle size
• A gradual decline in power
• Bone density decreases
• The tendon (where the muscle attaches to the bone) loses strength
But the decline can be as little as 2% per decade! That being said, we need to expect that as our age starts to creep up, we need to be aware that the aches and pains we experience are going to take a little bit longer to heal.
Demands versus Strength
Our body needs to be strong enough to handle what you’re asking it to do. If you’ve ever
been to our physiotherapy clinic, you’ve probably heard me say this at least once or twice. As we get older, we start being less active and this can translate to losing our muscle strength that much quicker. Continuing to exercise, and doing weights in particular, will help keep the muscles strong so that you can continue doing all of the things you love.
Often the injuries we have now are different than the ones we had when we were younger.
Injuries that happen as we get older are often age-associated. Things like arthritis are injuries that haven’t occurred at one point in time, they have accumulated over a lifetime. Therefore, we can anticipate that the pain isn’t going to alleviate as quickly as we would like it to. As a physiotherapist, I always try to explain the processes that happen. The wear and tear we’ve put on our body over time can be managed until you reach a breaking point.
So don’t take your body for granted and weight until these nagging injuries start when you’re going to physiotherapy because it has gotten so bad that you can’t sleep or raise your arm over your head.
Stay strong and eat well. Give your body a little bit more rest (even if sometimes you do it begrudgingly). Your body can be stronger than you think – you just need to give it the opportunity. Recovery is a really important part of staying strong as we get older.