How Physical Therapy Helps Retirees Keep Dreams Alive During the Golden Years

Are you among the millions of Americans who have high aspirations for how you’ll spend the extra time during your post-retirement years? Whether you plan to travel the world, pick up fly fishing, spend more time woodworking or sign up for a golf league, your physical fitness level will be a factor.

A 2010 study suggests that the fitness declines we typically attribute to advancing age are largely caused by living sedentary lifestyles—which are on the rise due to the prominence of desk jobs in the workplace and activity-limiting personal technologies including smart phones and voice-activated remote controls in the home. Still, this runs contrary to the widely held belief that any declines in our physical abilities are caused solely by biological aging. Do we really have control over how active we’ll be in our “golden years”?

In a word, absolutely. The study—which examined 900,000 running times of marathon and half-marathon participants aged 20 to 79—found no significant age-related performance declines in those younger than 55 years old, and only moderate declines among the older cohorts. In fact, more than one-quarter of runners aged 65 to 69 were faster than half of the runners aged 20 to 54.

And for those thinking that these runners must have been lifelong enthusiasts of the sport, the study revealed that 25% of runners aged 50 to 69 were relative newcomers—and had started marathon training within the previous 5 years. The researchers concluded that even at an advanced age, people in the “non-athlete” category who engage in regular training can reach high performance levels.

If this revelation is intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to get moving! If you aren’t currently active, then you likely have questions and concerns about where to start. And if you regularly engage in physical activities, then you’ve probably set goals that you’d like to achieve. Either way, there’s no shortage of tools and resources to help you live a more active lifestyle but one reliable place to start is with a physical therapist here at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness.

The benefits of beginning with a physical therapist consultation are many: PTs are trained to assess your abilities and limitations, consider your health concerns, demonstrate safe exercises and build a plan to increase strength, function and mobility. Whatever your passion is, physical therapy will help you be fit and injury-free so you may enjoy life’s many pursuits.

When to see a Physical Therapist

See Your Physical Therapist to Nip Potential Injuries in the Bud

You probably already know to make an appointment with a physical therapist when you sprain your ankle or develop tennis elbow. But what if you’ve felt a slight twinge in your knee during your daily walk or noticed that your posture has changed since you accepted a job that requires sitting for eight hours a day? Or maybe you’ve been thinking about joining a gym to get in shape. Are these reasons to see a physical therapist? Yes!

Each of these scenarios has the potential for injury. Physical therapists are experts in injury prevention and are trained to spot small problems before they become big problems—and often before you know that there’s a problem at all. Physical therapists evaluate, screen and assess patients using a variety of tools to detect mobility limitations and muscle imbalances that, if left untreated, may leave you prone to serious injuries down the road.

When caught early, injuries—or the very beginning signs of an injury—are easier to treat and the recovery period is shorter, less expensive and less of a burden on everyday life. Knowing what to look out for—and when to see a healthcare professional—is often not as obvious as it sounds. Some signs and symptoms aren’t recognized as indicators of an injury while others may be brushed off as nothing serious. Here are a few things to look out for:

• Joint pain
• Tenderness
• Swelling
• Reduced range of motion
• Weakness
• Numbness or tingling
• Balance issues

If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to rule out a potential problem or to nip one in the bud before it becomes more serious. Based on background, training and experience, PTs understand how a patient’s risk for specific types of injuries can increase based on participation in certain sports and recreational activities as well as identify physical strains due to on-the-job and household demands.

An individualized exercise program designed to strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility and optimize your physical ability can help correct and prevent issues that could turn into injuries in the future. For example, a teenage field hockey player can learn exercises to perform regularly to lower her risk of tearing her ACL. Your PT can design an injury prevention exercise program to suit your specific needs and ensure your healthy participation in sports, recreational activities and everyday life.

Dizziness and Vertigo

Written by: Jennifer Buono, PT, DPT

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms that adults report to their physician. With a wide range of possible causes including, cardiovascular, neurological, metabolic, psychological, pharmacological, as  well as, vestibular disorders, it can be hard for individuals to get a correct diagnosis. Often they will consult with 4 or 5 different physicians before determining the exact cause.

To assist providers in diagnosing the cause it is beneficial for individuals to further define their dizziness symptoms.

According to the Vestibular Disorder Association (VEDA):
● Dizziness: a sensation of lightheadedness, faintness or unsteadiness that does not
contain a rotational component.
● Vertigo: sensation of spinning of either the self or the surrounding environment.
● Disequilibrium: a feeling of being off balance or unsteady and can often be
accompanied by disorientation.
● Spacial disorientation: a sensation of not knowing where one’s body is in space.

More than ⅓ of adults over the age of 40 in the US have experienced some sort of vestibular dysfunction. One disorder in particular called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV is the cause of about 50% of dizziness/vertigo symptoms in older people. BPPV is characterized by frequent episodes of vertigo that typically last less than 60 seconds and are associated with changes in head and body positions. For example, quick head movements can trigger vertigo symptoms, as well as bending forward, looking up toward the ceiling, moving from lying to sitting and rolling to one side in bed.

BPPV occurs when calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia), which are normally in the utricle portion of the inner ear, become dislodged and move into the semicircular canals. This movement interferes with the fluid movement in the canals which sense head motion. The change in fluid movement causes the inner ear to send false signals to the brain and the result is a spinning sensation or vertigo. The cause of
BPPV sometimes is unclear, but it can be due to an infection that affects the inner ear, head injury or it can also be due to degeneration of the hair cells that occurs during the natural aging process.

The good news is that BPPV is not life threatening and is typically easily treated. Physical therapists with specialized training can help treat BPPV with the use of positioning maneuvers, known as canalith repositioning. The most common maneuver is known as the Epley maneuver. The therapist takes the individual through a series of head and body movements to move the crystals out of the semicircular canals.

Studies have shown that in about 90% of cases, resolution of the symptoms can be attained in 1-3 treatments. Sometimes even after the BPPV has been resolved, individuals can also experience a sense of imbalance or disequilibrium for which the physical therapist can provide specific exercises that work to retrain the brain to process the information received by the vestibular system, known as vestibular rehabilitation.

If you are experiencing symptoms of dizziness, vertigo or disequilibrium don’t wait! Come and see one of the physical therapists here at Advanced Physical Therapy and fitness for evaluation and let us help you find the best treatment option, so that you can stop spinning and get back to your normal routine.

Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) Parnes LS, et al. Diagnosis and management of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). CMAJ.2003  169(7):681-693.


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  Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.