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How do you deal with injuries as you age?

April 13, 2009

I used to heal quickly.  As a cross country runner through fields, farmers roads, over and around obstacles, I would injure myself on a regular basis.  A strain here, an ankle twist there.  Within a day or two I would be back on the road.

Eventually,  after twenty plus years of abuse my body said enough of this running stuff and turned my ankles and knees against me.  So I moved on to other things.  Hiking, yard-work, walking and just about anything to stay active.  A few years in a hard external martial art, and eventually to Tai Chi.

At 55 I feel pretty good.  I get winded a bit easier than when I was younger, and I know if I tread-milled that would go away.  I have also been teaching flexibility classes to seniors for two years.  Again, feeling pretty good and pretty limber for my age.

Then, on Thursday last week, I woke up with a very achy shoulder and a stiff neck.  Like, hello,  where did this come from.  I then remembered the day prior I was tossing some wood into my wood stack that needed to be split over the summer.  Could this innocent tossing of a few logs have done this to me?  

It is now Monday and ya know what,  it still bothers me.  How can I teach flexibility classes with a shoulder that is not happy.  It should be interesting to say the least.  

I’ve done heat,  cold, Motrin,  sportscream rub,  rest and some minor stretching. It is a tad better however I know it needs rest.  Tomorrow I need to get through two classes.  Hmmm,  do I cancel or suffer through?

Perhaps this is the work of god – saying to me,  you are now more like your 80 and 90 year old students.  Imagine how their arthritic joints and failing bodies feel while they try to keep up with the program.  

I suppose if they can do this stuff,  I can also, however I am the one they follow.  Do I do a lighter than normal routine?  Do I let on with them that the person who tells them this stretching work will help them improve also get injured like them?  Will they say, then why are we doing this stuff?

Although I have been recovering from Bells Palsy for 9 months,  I was able to move, just not talk very well.  My intuition tells me just go to class, do the best I can and joke with my seniors about me being foolish and moving stacks of wood in too much of a hurry and allowing myself to get injured.  After all, it is because I get exercise,  do my Tai Chi and teach flexibility classes that I am able to do the yard work and toss the wood to begin with.  I just need to remember that I am older now, and need to be more careful.

 Does the fear of injury make you over cautious  or do you approach activities with optimism ?

  1. As you age it takes longer for your body to heal. connective tissues especially tendons and ligaments have poor vascular supply and these can take even longer to heal.


  2. As you age the flexibility of your tendons and ligaments tends to decrease and as a result you are more likely to suffer more significant damage. This is exacerbated by the fact that you also have slower recovery and repair. Inevitably it will take longer to recover and you need to take this in to account


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