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Use it or lose it, but don't abuse it.

Whether exploiting the virtue of "pumping iron" in our 80s or brisk walking in our 90s, we health professionals seem to be doing a great job of convincing our aging population that there's nothing like exercise to keep the old bod in trim. Dr. John Fenlin of Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University writes, however, that the result is "a more limber, but older, population. By extending our active life spans, we are also pushing the warranties on body parts that have a tendency to wear out with such continual use."

Tennis elbow and arthritic knee joints will force some of us into golf as our main sporting activity. However, we may find, to our dismay, that even that less demanding game may tax our aging parts in the form of rotator cuff injury, or "golfer's shoulder," as it's popularly known. The "rotator cuff" is a group of four muscles and tendons that lies just beneath the deltoid muscle (which raises the arm) and stabilizes the shoulder joint. Although sudden trauma to the shoulder, or overuse, can tear it, the medical profession is finding that nothing more than long years of normal use is responsible for more persons in their 60s and 70s having the condition.

Straining or tearing of the rotator cuff produces pain in the shoulder, often referred down the arm or in the elbow. Half the cases of cuff injury will require surgery--which doctors, fortunately, can usually do on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. Exercise, prescribed by a professional therapist, can usually treat the other half of such cases.

Decreasing circulation can allow the head of the humerus (the long bone of the upper arm) to rub against a tendon and wear it thin as we grow older. Even with normal use, this can produce tiny tears. Exercise of the rotator cuff muscles to make them stronger and more flexible can lessen the possibility of such injury:

(1) Put your right hand on your left shoulder and, with the left hand on the right elbow, gently push the elbow toward the left shoulder. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Switch sides after repeating this procedure five times.

(2) With your right arm behind your head, touch your left shoulder. With the left hand, gently pull down on the right elbow for 15 seconds. Repeat five times and then switch sides.

(3) Join your hands behind your back and slowly raise arms upward. Hold 15 seconds and repeat five times.

(4) With a 3- to 5-pound weight in each hand, raise your arms to the side and slightly forward, up to the level of your shoulders, keeping your thumbs toward the floor. Slowly lower the arms halfway and bring them back to shoulder level. Repeat 10 times. If you find this exercise difficult, use lighter weights and work up to the full exercise.

(5) Lie on your side and place your elbow on the floor, keeping your head in that hand. With a light weight in the other hand, and keeping that elbow against your side and that arm at 90 degrees, point your hand toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your hand toward the floor without moving your elbow. Repeat 10 times on each side.

(6) Lie on your back and keep the weight in your hand. Place your elbow against your side and, keeping your arm at a 90-degree angle, lower the weight to the floor and bring it back up again, 10 times. Repeat this procedure on the other side.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:exercise for the aged
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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