by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

by Paula Allia

Over the past 36 years of being involved in healthcare and working with people so many observations have been made. It is definitely a known fact that exercise can help to ward of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many other disorders. Whether young or old, exercise should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. Many people who are chronologically in the last quarter of their lives have stated that the following are reasons for their longevity: proper amount of sleep, eating right, drinking plenty of water, exercising and “everything in moderation.”

The interesting thing is that many chronologically older adults have total joints or chronic pains that have become part of their everyday lives. Others have no issues. Why? Perhaps movement impairments are to blame.

There are many dysfunctions that slowly creep up on one’s health. What once was not even felt can reach your pain threshold and it now becomes an issue. First, wear and tear on the joints over time can cause osteoarthritis. Secondly, many people over 50 become osteopenic and if there are no actions taken to help osteoporosis may result. In addition, there are several autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis that can impact the joints and cause debilitation.

The bones in the body provide a framework for muscles and ligaments to attach. Some, like the ribs, provide protection to essential organs. These bones join together and create bony articulations with ligaments and muscles providing support and some with a meniscus or cartilage to add to joint integrity. At the ends of the bones there is a shiny surface called hyaline cartilage and this is bathed by joint fluids so that smooth motions can occur. Together, the muscles pull on the bones to create movement while the menisci, ligaments and shape or grooves of the bones guide those motions…. BUT…what if there is muscular imbalance or ligamentous laxity that is allowing for the joint to be guided in an inappropriate manner? Breakdown can ensue and this is where the beginnings of joint osteoarthritis occurs. Abnormal wear and tear over and over again if an action is not performed accurately can breakdown the hyaline cartilage and eventually, joint or bone pain reaches its threshold and the symptom of pain occurs with resultant dysfunction of the joint.

Osteopenia is a condition in which the bone density is low. Studies have cited that 50 percent of women over 65 have osteopenia and this can worsen to where osteoporosis occurs. When a person has osteopenia, exercise is recommended to strengthen the bone. Doctors may also recommend supplements or medication to help get calcium into the bones to strengthen them.

Some autoimmune disorders can cause joint breakdown as well. Rheumatoid arthritis can deform and break down joints to a debilitating level.

In all of these instances, exercising appropriately is key to avoiding further breakdown of the bones and joints. Picking the right exercise is pertinent to the outcome of the bones and joints. Interestingly, when children start exercising, they are building the strength in thier basic bony framework. It is not discussed often enough that kids should be watched so that they are not developing bad habits in exercise at a very young age.

It is common that boot camps and group classes are done all over the country. However, if you watch many people participating, proper execution of the exercises is not always done. This is true with individuals exercising as well. Certain exercises are better than others to strengthen muscles and bones with less deleterious results later in life. It would be ideal to work out hard and not breakdown joints so much that they need to be replaced in the second half of life. It is sad to say that total joints are now being used in people that are younger because the joints wore out.

What can you do to help yourself avoid debilitating osteoarthritis and other disorders?

First, take note of your joints and identify any that may not be aligned within the norm. There are many professionals out there that can help you. Second, perform cardio activities that you repeat motions that are good for the way your joints are aligned. Pay attention to movement impairments and try and correct them before going on to vigorous activities. Finally, the quality of the execution of exercises is pertinent to your success. If one participates in activities or exercises that do not allow for reasonable alignment of the bones, abnormal wear and tear with excessive repetitions is inevitable. Be smart…exercise with awareness and
pay attention to form. You can usually all become more diligent in execution.

Enjoy the summer!
To Your Health!

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