What are some of the most common injuries among people trying to stay fit in their middle years?
Some answers from medical sources, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Institutes of Health:
• The problem: The shoulder’s rotator cuff – four muscles and their associated tendons – supports the shoulder joint, giving it strength and mobility. Aging, injury and repetitive overhead motion such as throwing a ball can cause cuff tears.
• Treatment/prevention: Usually doctor-prescribed physical therapy to build strength around the shoulder joint, and perhaps steroid injections and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Doctors limit NSAIDs when possible, instead allowing the body’s inflammatory response to heal the problem. Surgery sometimes is needed. Try rotator-cuff strengthening and flexibility exercises, and warming up gently before activities.
• The problem: Repetitive activities such as running and bicycling can lead to trochanteric bursitis, or inflammation around the outside part of the hip. The hip’s bony point is called the greater trochanter.
• Treatment/prevention: May include steroid injections, NSAIDs, physical therapy and activity modifications. Work on strength-building and weight control to prevent recurrences, and wear the proper shoes.
• The problem: The meniscus acts as a shock absorber for the knee, helping the joint carry weight and move. Tears can occur as the cartilage weakens and thins with age or when you twist your knee or pivot during activities.
• Treatment/prevention: Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE), sometimes with NSAIDs for pain. Arthroscopic repair may be needed, with your surgeon preserving as much of the meniscus as possible. Physical therapy will strengthen the knee.
• The problem: Your foot twists and overstretches or tears the muscle, tendons or ligaments in the ankle. The result can be an ankle sprain, strain or fracture. A fracture also can be caused by a fall.
• Treatment/prevention: Depending on the severity of a sprain or strain, you may be advised to try RICE, NSAIDs, movement to prevent stiffness and perhaps an ankle support or bandage wrap. Ankle fractures may require surgery or use of a high-top shoe or a cast. Do strength, balance and flexibility exercises (don’t forget to warm up and stretch), and wear good shoes, possibly with an arch support.
• The problem: Overuse – lots of walking on hard surfaces or running, for example – inflames the fibrous band of tissue (fascia) that runs along the sole (plantar) of the foot to connect your heel bone to the base of your toes. Pain is felt in the heel.
• Treatment/prevention: Rest, ice and NSAIDs often are prescribed. Stretching is especially important if you have tight Achilles tendons or tight hamstring muscles. Good shoes with heels will relieve pressure, as will maintaining a healthful weight.
• The problem: Running, basketball and other high-impact activities can create a small crack in the outer shell of a bone, usually in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg.
• Treatment/prevention: Reducing your activity level and wearing protective footwear may be enough to heal the fracture. To prevent stress fractures, maintain a healthful diet and weight, consume foods rich in bone-building calcium and vitamin D, and use proper shoes and sports equipment. Strength training slows age-related loss of bone density and builds muscles that are better able to absorb shock.