Aging used to go like this: get older, then slow down.
For boomers, aging now goes like this: get older, use free time to speed up, train for a triathlon or two, get knee surgery to fix various sports injuries, keep going as long as possible.
Are you experiencing elbow pain during gripping, shoulder pain when reaching, back or neck pain with increased activity, or knee pain that makes walking difficult? Are you between the ages of 40-60? You may be experiencing a common condition called boomeritis.
What is Boomeritis?
Boomeritis as defined by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, refers to related injuries suffered by baby boomers who are trying to maintain a more healthy lifestyle than their previous generation. Born between 1946 and 1964, they make up 30% of the people active in sports and recreational exercise. Smack in the middle of this age range, are the people in their forties – the decade experts say that our muscles, tendons and joints start to “show their age”.
With aging, our joints have less lubrication and our muscles and tendons lose their elasticity. When we over stress our muscles and joints with repetitive movements, or perform an activity our body is not conditioned for, we cause micro-tears and subsequent inflammation in these tissues. These micro-tears heal with scar tissue, making them prone to further damage and often leading to problems such as tennis elbow, shin splints, bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis.
If our weight bearing joints become stiff and lose their support from the surrounding muscles, they will wear out faster, especially when subjected to increased loading. A perfect example of this is how many people are on waiting lists for total hip and knee replacements. Perhaps many of these people would not require surgery if they had received effective treatment intervention earlier on.
Can you prevent boomeritis? Perhaps not completely, but with increased education and effective instruction in exercise, many of these conditions can be prevented or at least minimized. Unfortunately, many people start exercise programs too aggressively or without being shown the proper techniques to avoid injury.
How can I avoid it?
- Prepare your body.
If you are interested in starting an exercise program, a new recreational activity, or just returning to one after an absence, go see a physiotherapist to thoroughly assess your joint and muscle function first. He/she will let you know if your body is ready for such activities and if there are any specific movements or activities you should avoid or minimize. You will receive exercises to address any areas that are weak or tight. A little individual help goes a long way in keeping you injury free.
- Start slowly and progress gradually.
When you begin any new exercise or activity, always start slowly and increase the challenge over time. Always warm up and stretch prior to each session, and take a few minutes at the end to cool down and stretch. Even professional athletes in their prime practice these strategies.
What if I already have “Boomeritis?”
Seek the help of a physiotherapist in the early stages. The saying “no pain, no gain” does not apply for injuries. Physical therapists are university trained health care providers dedicated to helping restore mobility and function following injury. If you have developed a condition such as rotator cuff tendonitis, bursitis, tennis elbow or back and neck pain, see your local physiotherapist. Intervening without drugs or surgery, physiotherapy is a safe and cost effective way to help with recovery from injury and learn preventative measures.
Regular exercise is the most important factor in helping ward off many age related problems. The benefits far outweigh the potential costs, most of which can be avoided if you follow the above tips.