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September 25, 2013

How Older Adults Can Recover From Exercise Injuries

A sudden muscle strain or twisted ankle can be extremely frustrating for older adults working hard to maintain their physiques and overall health. Exercise injuries can be a setback with your fitness goals, but a careful recovery plan can help you get back in motion. In this blog, we take a look at some common exercise injuries suffered by older adults and some paths to recovery.

Sprains and Strains

What is it? Sprains and strains are common sports and fitness injuries. They have similar symptoms, but sprains affect the ligaments, while strains affect the muscle or tendon. Both can cause pain, swelling, and reduced ability to move the injured joint or muscle.

Sprains are typically caused by overextending or stressing a joint. Similarly, strains are caused by over-stretching a muscle, or stretching it suddenly, causing it to pull or tear. Strains can be one-time injuries, or they may become chronic with continued stress on your muscles. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can reduce your risk of strains and sprains by warming up and stretching before exercise and by not overexerting tired muscles. Don’'t jump suddenly into a new exercise routine if your body isn'’t ready for it. Be patient and add activity slowly until your body adjusts.

How do you recover? Minor sprains and strains can be treated at home, according to the Mayo Clinic. Immediately ice the injury to reduce swelling, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, and use an elastic bandage to compress the area. Elevate the muscle or joint and be sure to give it rest until it recovers. If you can’'t walk more than a few steps without significant pain, if you have numbness, or if you can’'t move the joint, you should see a doctor.


What is it? A bruise occurs when a blunt object strikes your skin and breaks blood vessels below the surface, causing discoloration. You can get a bruise if you fall during an exercise or if you bump your arm or leg hard against some gym equipment. While different people experience different severities of bruising, research has shown older adults, especially women, tend to bruise more easily. That can be caused naturally by thinning skin or weaker capillaries, or could be an effect of your medications, says the Mayo Clinic.

How do you recover? Some bruises cause little pain and won’'t prevent you from continuing on with your workout. Others may cause soreness. You can treat sore bruises with ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. If you have bruises that show up without cause, or if you have unusually large or painful bruises, you should see a doctor. You can also talk to your doctor about medications that might increase your risk of bruises. 


What is it? Tendinitis (or Tendonitis) is inflammation and soreness of the tendons, which attach muscles to your bones. These tissues can be found all over the body, but the areas most commonly irritated during exercise are in the heels, shoulders, wrists, or elbows. Medical professionals say tendinitis is usually a symptom of working out too hard or too long. Other triggers can be improper technique when performing exercises or performing unnatural motions your body isn’'t used to, such as a tennis serve. 

Because prevention is often the best medicine, you should be careful not to overexert yourself, especially when you’'re starting a new exercise program. If you’'re not sure how to perform an exercise, it’'s a good idea to ask an instructor at your local gym or community center to show you how. Otherwise, avoid unfamiliar exercises that could result in an injury.

How do you recover? Your doctor may recommend what’s known as RICE treatment. That means resting the joint, applying ice, compressing the area with an elastic bandage, and keeping the area elevated. Be sure to consult your physician before you start a treatment plan. When you’'re feeling better, take things slow. Exercise the area a little at a time until you’'re feeling stronger. While you’'re recovering, it might be possible to continue exercising, as long as you’'re not further aggravating your injury. If you’'re nursing a wrist injury, for example, you may be able to take a spin on a stationary bicycle for a light workout.

Need help getting back into the exercise groove after injury? Check out this helpful download!

how to begin a regular exercise routine


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