No two injuries are alike, which means that the path to recovery can be different for everyone, especially for seniors. Post-injury exercise is a common denominator, however, and one that many doctors promote to aid in rehabilitation. But, which exercises are best for which types of injuries? Just as important, are there certain exercises that may cause more harm than good? Here is a look at three common types of injuries, and exercises that are beneficial and detrimental for each.
Knee injuries are one of the most common types of sports-related injuries. A key to preventing additional injury when nursing your knee back to health is to avoid bending your leg so far that the knee extends past the foot. Partial squats and side lying leg lifts (both done without weights), step ups (using a low bench or stepper), and straight leg raises are just a few of the common exercises recommended to strengthen and help rehabilitate knees post-injury. However, lunges, deep squats, running, and other exercises that jar the knees should be avoided.
Joint injuries can include those involving the knee, but they can also develop from a twisted ankle, overextended elbow, or strained or sprained wrist. Strains are common and occur when a ligament is stretched or torn, so a joint injury can occur as a result of anything from participating in a sport to being involved in a work-related accident or a vehicle collision. However the injury develops, though, there are exercises that can help rebuild strength and relieve the pain in the impacted joints.
Swimming is considered to be one of the best exercises for joint injuries. The water absorbs much of the body’s stress, allowing for more flexibility and endurance. In addition, other low impact exercises, including yoga, walking, stretching, and bicycling are also recommended. Of course, the specific exercise chosen will depend on the area injured, as well as your doctor’s guidance. But, exercises to avoid while recovering from joint injuries include all high impact workouts, such as running, and even jogging.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are an estimated 12,500 new spinal cord injuries reported in the United States every year. Also, spinal cord injuries (SCI) greatly lower life expectancy, particularly during the first year post-injury, and the mortality rate increases with the severity of the injury. Fortunately, those who have suffered from a SCI can increase their chances at longevity and an improved quality of life by actively engaging in rehabilitative exercises, which is part of the seven step recovery process.
Since the spine is such a critical component of our physical functionality, it’s imperative that any exercise program be cleared with your doctor beforehand. Often, exercises are done under the care of a physical therapist to ensure they’re being performed properly, but typically, SCI exercises include those that help improve spine movement and strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. For example, certain low impact stretches, the use of a stationary bicycle, or even swimming may be prescribed. Exercises to avoid include any that cause strain on the back, such as weightlifting.
Regardless of the location or severity of the injury, you should not experience enduring pain while exercising. If you do, you could exacerbate the problem, so stop and consult your doctor. After all, the goal of including exercise as part of your post-injury regimen is to rehabilitate the injured area. Exercise can be essential to the recovery process but, as with all exercise programs, consult your doctor before you begin, especially if you’ve suffered an injury.
Even the slightest of injuries can drastically change the health and overall well-being of a senior. Some injuries may require modifications throughout the home while more severe injuries may lead to drastic, life changing events such as assisted living or elder care facilities. Fortunately, with today’s technologies and resources, seniors are able to live more safely in their own homes.
At Elderly Safety, our experts research and recommend products that can be implemented into a preventative care plan within the home. Preventing the slip or fall is easier and less costly than facing the physical, emotional, and financial distress of a life altering injury.
Whether you are an active senior who goes to the gym a few times a week or have become less mobile due to health issues, we suggest that seniors consider installing or using the following items in their home to decrease the likelihood of a preventable injury and improve their overall safety and well-being.
Rollators or rolling walkers are widely used by people of all ages and abilities and are especially useful in fall prevention. Rollators, unlike the standard non-wheeled walker, is easier to use for people who have difficulty in lifting or have limited mobility or strength and operate well on uneven terrain. Seniors may experience additional benefits from using a rollator:
- Increased independence in daily tasks, including errands or light housework
- Is a helpful and safe tool in rebuilding strength and mobility after a slip, fall, injury or surgical procedure
Safety Door Locks
A locked door can be the one thing that keeps your loved one from receiving a severe injury or becoming lost. Seniors, who suffer from memory loss issues such as Alzheimer’s, are vulnerable to “outdoor dangers” such as harsh climates or every day hazards. A safety door lock is often electronic and a code is programmed into a keypad. A caregiver can lock the door, attend to other tasks in the home and not worry about their loved one leaving the security of their home.
Anti-Slip Shower Mat
Any room in the home can be hazardous to an unsteady senior, but a bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places for an elder of any ability. A shower’s surfaces can become slick with even the smallest amount of soap residue, but seniors with balance or mobility issues are more likely to slip in the shower and less likely to get up without help. Anti-slip shower mats offer resistance and can decrease the chance of slipping and falling. Elderly Safety has some tips when searching for the right anti-slip mat:
- Measure your shower or bathtub for a good fitting mat. Too big or too small can increase hazards, such as tripping or slipping.
- Make sure the suction/attachment is strong and secure. Don’t use the mat until it’s firmly in place.
- Keep your mat clean and dry as excess buildup or water can make it unsafe.
Grab Bar for Tubs & Showers
An additional safety feature, great for any bathroom, is a grab bar in the tub or shower. While anti-slip mats can reduce the likelihood of slipping and falling in the bathtub or shower, a grab bar is a safety feature that can increase independence and a sense of security in any senior’s life. Installing a grab bar in a tub and/or shower can make entering and exiting the bathing area less dangerous and scary.