It is a well-known fact that as we age we experience a progressive loss of strength and flexibility. In most cases, this loss of strength and flexibility is due to a decrease in physical activity and movement over the years. Harvard Health Studies have discovered that the average human will lose 3-5% of strength and flexibility per decade over age 30. Conversely speaking, experts say we lose less than 1% strength and flexibility per decade over age 40 if we are physically active!
So you may be thinking so what! How does this affect the quality of my life? I’m not an aspiring dancer or pro athlete! Well, in short, it is important to see the forest for the trees. The medical ramifications of short tight weak muscles create numerous physical handicaps.
Short muscle fibers due to loss of strength and flexibility
When there is a loss of strength and flexibility in muscles, they undergo necrosis and atrophy and therefore weaken. When muscle fibers necrose they die off; when they atrophy, they get stiff and lose flexibility. The end result is an adaptive shortening of the muscle fiber.
Adaptive Shortening of Muscle Fiber and Body Dysfunction
A loss of strength and flexibility causes muscle fibers to adaptively shorten due to lack of use. This leads to a loss of range of motion. For example, shortened muscle fibers in your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can affect the length of your stride by shortening the muscle fiber connecting the hips to your thighs. If we look at how short muscle fibers effect posture, we see numerous joint and connective tissue dysfunctions of the neck (cervical vertebrae), middle back ( thoracic vertebrae), and lower back (lumbar vertebrae, which always leads to neurological pain, radiating heat and numbing. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience a loss of sensation in the feet and secondary balance issues. The list of body dysfunctions due to skeletal muscle weakness and inflexibility is quite numerous and very real.
Body Dysfunction due to loss of strength and flexibility
Body dysfunctions can be postural in nature and also present with chronic pain or a lower body orthopedic dysfunction to knees, hips, ankles. Moreover, there are several upper body dysfunctions such as forward head carriage, front drop panel, rounded shoulder and kyphosis also known as hunch back. Lumbar spine and disc-related issues are usually the result of tight hip flexors and weak gluteal muscle. Most musculoskeletal dysfunctions are the consequences of short tight muscles that inhibit the proper rolling, gliding, pivoting movement of a particular joint. When that joint fails to move properly, calcification and or arthritis begins to affect the integrity of the bone and connective tissue. The result is a dismantling of the body joint structures osteoporotic bone and pain. As pain presents, the human body prefers to reduce movements, which aids in the acceleration of the dysfunction. In time the individual with the dysfunction will need to resort to pain meds and walking aids to curb the pain. Both of these consequences can and will cause a systematic shut down of the body’s homeostasis.
Common Dysfunctions Seen in the Aging Population.
Degenerative Hip Disease – The is the result of too much laxity in the hip joint which creates arthritis and eventual thinning of the hip socket known as the acetabulum. Once the acetabulum perforates, total hip arthroplasty is required to regain partial function. The hip will never be the same even with the latest in orthopedic technology.
Degenerative Knee Disease – Not only can trauma destroy a knee joint but a faulty mal alignment can destroy the meniscus cartilage which sits between the long leg bone known as the femur and the lower leg bone known as the tibia. When a malalignment occur severe pain dominates. The end result is a wheel, a chairbound person who now becomes exponentially more sedentary as remaining still is the most comfortable situation to be in.
Spinal Stenosis: A painful progressive disease of the spine that often leaves people bed-bound or in a wheelchair. This is a fine example of whereby calcification of tiny holes in the vertebral bodies creates an impingement of spinal nerves that service appendages and organs of the human body. Also known as dermatomes. The majority of people with spinal stenosis claim it is impossible to comfortably walk because the pain they experience in their feet is similar to walking on sharp pointed glass or thumbtacks.
Global Body Imbalance – The body loses its sense of proprioception or awareness in space when there is a neuropathy because of a neural shutdown. This neural shut down can be due to diabetes, stroke, encephalopathy or spinal stenosis.
How to Prevent Medical Problems Due to Loss of Strength and Flexibility
Common sense would dictate just move your body, but this is not always the case especially if you’re attempting to get into a strength and flexibility program after the imbalance or pain symptoms occur. If you happen to fall into this category then a careful assessment by a skilled medical exercise specialist or therapist should be done. Otherwise, you might end up compounding the existing problem.
Once you obtain your customized assessment you can have your medical exercise specialist develop a program tailored to your needs. In your program, you will find diagrams and instructions specific to helping you negate your particular physical anomalies.
You should expect that your rehabilitation program won’t be on the same scale as a professional bodybuilder or Yoga master. It will be gentle but progressive in helping you regain normal function.
If you are the point where your balancing skills are severely compromised you will need to enlist the help of a medical exercise specialist to work with you. You are at high risk of falling and the medical exercise specialist will attach you to his / her gait belt to ensure you can’t fall during the training program.
Once your balance and confidence improve you have to option of implementing your own strength and flexibility program at home or at a local health club. You will always need to stay on top of your program if living a functional pain-free life is important to you.
Loss of strength and flexibility should never happen if human being becomes more mindful of body maintenance through proper exercise, nutrition and flexibility. A maintenance program doesn’t need to consume an hour of your day but should be addressed at least two hours per week. There are fun ways to integrate strength and flexibility into hobbies which you like such as dance, tennis, golf, and jogging. If you need ideas or a program to get you on the right track, then I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hiring somebody that has the skills and knowledge to get you back on the right track.
For more information on how to correct balance, nutrition and flexibility issues affecting the quality of your life, contact Rivak E. Hoffman Medical Exercise Specialist and CHEK Exercise Coach and Practitioner at everybitfitaz.com or call 480-868-5170