The musculoskeletal system changes with age. Seniors experience natural signs of advancing years as they look and function differently than they did in their youth. In this blog, we’ll look at those changes and how your orthopedic specialist can assist you in living well as you age.
Changes in Muscles
Muscle mass degrades with age. Even if you are very active and exercise routinely, the muscles in your arms, legs, back, and core are likely to shrink and become stiffer as you get older, causing a rigidity in older adults.
Also, strength to lift and generalized muscle tone decreases year by year. This causes fatigue, limitations in routine activities, and even changes in gait, balance, coordination, and ambulation.
Changes in Bones
Bone degradation receives a lot of media attention these days, and for good reason. As men and women age, so too can loss of calcium and other bone-strengthening minerals. Osteoporosis is common among postmenopausal women, with hip, wrist, and spine fractures topping the list of orthopedic injuries. Some injuries occur with falls and others happen spontaneously due to the brittleness of bone and connective tissues, such as cartilage.
The appearance of the skeleton is noticeably different with advancing age. The pelvic girdle widens, long bones look even longer because of less supporting muscle tissue. Osteophytes, or bone spurs, often grow, most noticeably in the finger joints and vertebrae along the spinal column.Even a person’s height can decrease with time if bone loss is significant.
Changes in Connective Tissue
Tendons, ligaments, joint fluid, and cartilage reduce in quality and quantity. Older people have more fat in place of muscle and thinner connective tissues, such as cartilage. Joints become noisy as natural lubrication–synovial fluid in the knee, for example–is lost.
Degenerative disc disease in the spine can become an issue, causing a forward bend of the back (stooped posture), pain, and far less strength and flexibility.
How Strength, Gait, Balance, Coordination, And Appearance Are Affected
In general, strength, endurance, and resiliency of the musculoskeletal system ages as a person gets older. You will get tired more easily, recover more slowly from injuries and illnesses, and find that you can’t do as much in a day as you did previously.
You walk more slower and become unsteady on your feet. Even involuntary muscle movements become more common, and muscles shorten in advanced age, causing contractures and limited ability to extend and flex joints.
What You Can Do About Age-Related Orthopedic Concerns
Taken together, age-related orthopedic changes put senior adults at risk for falls, limited range of motion, joint degradation, deformities, and increasing inflammation and pain. In short, quality of life can worsen if people do not take steps to exercise, eat a healthy diet (with supplemental calcium and Vitamin D), stop smoking, and keep a healthy weight.
For more specific problems, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, it’s important to consult with an orthopedic specialist to get the right medications and physical therapy regimens to slow the progress of these chronic conditions.
Experts in Adult Orthopedics in Kingsport, TN
At Watauga Orthopedics, our team of 20 orthopedic specialists is passionate about keeping seniors healthy, functional, and enjoying their lives. If you or a loved one would like a consultation with one of our doctors about age-related musculoskeletal changes and how to deal with them successfully, contact us today: (423) 282-9011. Or, schedule an appointment online. We offer comprehensive orthopedic care at all three of our locations: Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, TN.