Aging gracefully is easier said than done. Our bodies—once strong and vital—will eventually begin to break down and wear away no matter what we do. The inevitability of injuries can be alarming.
From hip fractures to burns, injuries become far more common as we age. In fact, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, there are 12 injury-related emergency department visits for every 100 persons over the age of 65 each year.
That means each year after the age of 65 you have a one in ten chance of being hospitalized. Avoiding these potential catastrophic events requires awareness of the potential pitfalls.
So today, we are going through the 10 of the most common injuries of seniors:
Hip fractures are among the most common injuries for people over the age of 65. In fact, around 300,000 people aged 65 or over are hospitalized in the U.S each year due to hip fractures. Even worse, these fractures can be a death sentence. Most orthopedic conditions seniors face are relatively mild in comparison with hip fractures.
The sad reality is, one in three adults aged 50 or over dies within just 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. Staying flexible, strong and balanced as we age through a regimen of diet and exercise is perhaps the best way to avoid this fate.
Recent research from Swedish researchers that analyzed around 1,313 injuries which occured in a 65+ community over a one-year period, found that more than half of the injuries were fractures. The most common were wrist and hip fractures.
If you could choose one or the other, you would definitely want the wrist fracture. Patients usually recover fully from these injuries within a couple months if they do the proper physical therapy. Although many older seniors will never recover full mobility after a fracture of any kind, so it pays to be careful.
Rotator Cuff Injuries/Shoulder Bursitis
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keep the ball or head of your upper-arm bone in your shoulder socket.
When you think of rotator cuff injuries you might think of weightlifters or baseball players, but it is actually more common for seniors to experience rotator cuff injuries than athletes.
Even worse these injuries often come with painful and debilitating shoulder dislocations or chronic conditions like bursitis (inflammation of a bursa, a fluid filled sac that protects the shoulder joint) which can lead to shoulder impingement.
As we age the tendons and the cartilage surrounding our bones begins to wear, this leads to all sorts of debilitating tendon tears and strains if continuous injury prevention work isn’t done.
The meniscus is a disk shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in your knee. Although once again tearing your meniscus may sound like a young man’s injury, unfortunately, the reality is that seniors experience these tears far more often.
Patients over the age of 65 often complain of knee pain only to find out later they have torn tendons in their knees. Maintaining flexibility and strength as we age is a key way to fight meniscus tears.
Traumatic Brain Injury
In your golden years you’ve got life figured out, you know how to balance your checkbook and tie a tie, you know how to make and stick to a budget, you’ve had a rewarding career and it’s all downhill from here, right?
Well, if only your body would just cooperate.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the U.S every 11 seconds, someone over the age of 65 is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, someone over the age of 65 dies from a fall.
The most common cause of death from a fall is Traumatic Brain Injury. Though TBI can happen to anyone, one study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that for those over 65, the injury causes more than 80,000 visits to the ER annually.
If you are an active senior, whose maintained their diet and exercise regimen to the tee for years, sadly there may still be injuries in your future—they are an ever present reality of aging.
One of the most common injuries experienced by active seniors—especially you runners out there—is Achilles bursitis. This is a condition where the retrocalcaneal bursa, which lies between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus, becomes inflamed and wears on your Achilles tendon causing chronic pain.
According to one study from the Medical College of Wisconsin, injuries to the Achilles tendon are especially common in active older patients, and older men are particularly at risk.
For those active seniors out there, tennis elbow is another injury to consider as you age.
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition caused by overuse of the tendons in the elbow which leads to inflammation around the bony bumps on the bones of your humerus called epicondyles.
The condition can be painful, but also can lead to weakening grip strength which can affect daily life as we age. Refraining from overuse and properly stretching is a great way to prevent this injury.
Once again, you may think of burns as injuries that are more commonly seen in babies or children, but in fact it’s the elerly who commonly suffer from these painful injuries.
In fact, Patients over 60 comprise around 17% of patients admitted to burn centers in the United States, according to a study authored by Tam N Pham MD, at the University of Washington. And around 20% of more mild burn visits to the ER are from those aged 65 and over.
Coping with changing strength and balance as we age can lead to careless mistakes. Be careful, or you’ll get burned.
Cervical Disk Injury
Perhaps the worst and most debilitating injury on this list is Cervical Disk injury. The cervical spine includes the five vertebrae above your shoulders. Cervical disk injuries can include herniation, broken vertebrae, severe strain and disk displacement.
It’s no secret that seniors don’t have the best posture, but what people don’t realize is just how devastating the consequences of craning necks and bent backs can really be.
With preventative chiropractic care and posture correction many cervical disk injuries in seniors could be avoided, but unfortunately cervical fractures currently occur in around 4.7% of patients over the age of 65.
The final injury on this list may seem mild, but it is perhaps the most common and easily preventable injury of all.
Hamstring (rectus femoris) strains become increasingly common, and annoying, as we age. Due to falling muscle elasticity straining or tearing muscles and leaving yourself in a bad way becomes easier than you might think over the age of 60.
Maintaining muscle mass is important, but recent research indicates elasticity is the key factor in injury prevention.
In fact, according to a recent study by The University Graduate School of Health in Akita, Japan elderly women who maintain muscle elasticity as they age are far less likely to injure themselves and have improved balance and walking ability.
Aging gracefully can be a challenge, and unfortunately the genetic lottery may play the biggest factor. Still, there is a lot we can do to help prevent injury as we age.
Maintaining a healthy diet, staying active and improving flexibility are great ways to start.
So, if you want to make your golden years truly golden, put the work in and hopefully you can stay injury free.