Give Your Muscles a Checkup!


Most of us work hard during our productive years so that we can accumulate enough assets to finally relax, travel, and play in retirement.  It is likely that you have taken steps to protect your investments in troublesome times.  Unfortunately, while we are accumulating wealth, our bodies accumulate injuries along the way.  You may have felt back pain or aching knees over time in your life and if those aches and pains did not go away or became worse, you might pay a visit to your doctor's office or physical therapy clinic to find out how he or she can lessen the pain.  

Sometimes oral medication will help, sometimes physical therapy will treat the disorder, sometimes an injection will ease the symptoms, but we usually wait until something breaks down before we try to fix it, and then it may be too late. Car manufacturers make recommendations for scheduled preventive maintenance to ensure that your car operates at a maximum performance and lasts longer. Belts, hoses, and filters wear out or accumulate debris over time and need to be changed during the life of your car. If it were practical to replace tendons, ligaments, and bones over the course of our lifetime, that would be ideal.

Then we wouldn't have to fret about going up and down stairs, or lifting our grandchildren, or getting out of bed without pain. Acute tendonitis leads to degeneration, chronic scarring, reduced strength, and increased vulnerability to injury. Poor joint alignment in combination with excess weight leads to wearing away of our bones' protective layers. Weak muscles lead to joint instability, allowing our bones to rub back and forth and potentially damage cartilage and nerves. As we approach retirement age, we realize that our security isn't guaranteed, so we reassess our investments, protect our heart and arteries, and watch our diet and exercise.

But we may neglect the bones, joints, and muscles that hold our bodies up and keep them at optimal functioning condition. Our body's structure was not designed to last nearly 100 years without a maintenance schedule, so people endure aching backs, stiff joints, and ultimately knee and hip replacement surgery. Frequently we view these complaints as inevitable - "It's just something that I have to  put up with as I get older." - but they needn't be. Many impairments including osteoarthritis can be curbed or even prevented. Let me introduce you to a new concept - orthopedic prevention.  

You brush your teeth to reduce the risk of teeth and gum disease. You watch your cholesterol intake to reduce artery clogging and heart disease. You may get your prostate and colon screened or have annual breast examinations to reduce the risk of cancer. When was the last time that you did anything to reduce bone and joint degeneration? Have you done anything to limit muscle wasting? Are you protecting your knees and hips from unnecessary stresses? I call a maintenance program for your body's frame. This means maintaining the ability to swing a golf club, play tag with your grandchild, kneel to weed the garden, or walk up stairs.

It means getting safely into a gondola in Venice or on the Indianapolis downtown canal. Physical Security encompasses all that you may take for granted from your body now. What about later? It's an automobile's 30-point inspection. There are at least 30 checkpoints throughout your body's frame that can be inspected for potential muscle imbalances, postural abnormalities, motion restrictions, etc., so that you are aware of them before they become symptomatic.

A few checkpoints are illustrated in the box. Although orthopedic prevention is not in vogue yet, someday you will find yourself brushing your teeth and stretching your shoulder muscles after eating the fat-free, antioxidant-rich meal that you just consumed with a glass of red wine. If you truly want to be physically able to enjoy retirement, you need to start planning a physical security assessment with your doctor or physical therapist.

Test yourself for these Rotator Cuff

a. Can you lift a 2 liter bottle out to the side with arm straight?

b. Can you reach behind back so that hand touches opposite shoulder blade?

c. Standing against a wall, without twisting your body, raise your arm forward as high as possible. Can you touch the wall with the back of your hand?

Hip Strength

Can you stand on one leg for at least 30 seconds without leaning or hip pain?

Neck Range of Motion

a. Can you tuck your chin to chest?

b. Can you rotate your head so that nose is in line with shoulder?

Calf Flexibility

Sit on chair with hips at 90 degrees to the trunk; slide heel back as far as you can without lifting your heel. Can you slide your heel to at least the edge of the chair?