Last week I was in Manchester where I have a group of extremely active clients in their 60s and 70s. Amongst them are golfers, skiers, walkers and swimmers; all have been extremely good athletes in the past, participating competitively to a high level. They are fit, but after a lifetime of sporting endeavour they’ve naturally picked up a few injuries along the way and it’s later in life that these really come back to bite.
When we’re in our teens, twenties or even thirties it can seem reasonably easy to recover from injuries such as sprains, strains and impacts. Sometimes we may not even notice much of a problem, so most of the time we just take a bit of a rest, maybe do the exercises prescribed by a physio and when the pain has gone we get back on with our activity. It may be some years before we start paying the price for this and the problem then is that often, as discovered by my older clients, the medical profession isn’t really interested, because they regard musculo-skeletal aches and pains as a standard feature of ageing.
For example, one culprit I see frequently is scar tissue. Following an injury the body lays down a repair quickly but randomly – a bit like a DIY bodge! Muscle fibres need to run in parallel in order to work effectively and they need assistance beyond remedial exercises to regain their proper structure and function. Deep transverse friction is a massage technique which breaks down random scar tissue and adhesions, enabling massage combined with stretching and strength work to realign fibres and restore full functionality. It’s painful, but effective and will save you from potentially bigger problems later. Scar tissue is prone to re-injury and repeated micro-tears mean it just keeps on accumulating over time without you even noticing – until one day something else starts to hurt. Often, it is something else because your body has adapted to the weakness by transferring the load elsewhere, creating postural changes and muscular imbalance.
If you’re an enthusiastic and talented amateur, the risks of carrying the legacies of your sporting mishaps forwards as your body ages are considerable. Whilst many of the resulting problems – restricted mobility, muscular weakness and pain – remain treatable, you’d be naive to expect state healthcare to come to your aid. Instead, you may well be hearing the phrase “What do you expect at your age”. So make sure your rehabilitation is complete, no matter what your age when the injury occurs, and don’t accept ageing as an excuse to put up with pain. Just bear in mind that when you reach your seventies and can’t exercise because of injury past or present, your feelings of frustration will be just the same as when you were younger.