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Senior Citizen's Guide to Washington County (PA)

Spring Back Into Action!

If you’ve been a couch potato lately, you need to prepare your body before you roll off the sofa and bounce back into action.

How to Do a Self-Assessment of Your Joint Motion

Check for any pain or pulling as you observe yourself in a mirror doing the following:

1. Lean to the right, while keeping your arms at your side.

2. Place your hands on your hips and slowly look up. Stretch your neck muscles and test your balance.

3. Return your arms to your side and lean to the left. You should be able to lean as far over to the left as you did to the right.

4. Finally, bend over and reach for your toes.

 “The key is to start off slow,” says Dan Rehak, MPT, physical therapist and facility director at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Peters Township. “You need to take your time and ease back into activities in order to prevent injuries.”

So forget cleaning the entire house or weeding the whole garden in one day. Start with an easy selfassessment of your joint motion.

“Observe yourself leaning forward, backward, side to side, and turning while looking in the mirror,” explains Dan. “Do you move evenly, or are there some limitations, pulling or pain in certain directions? If one side of your body hurts more than the other, you should consult with your physician.”

Next, develop a warm-up for your muscles and joints that includes walking and light stretching of the larger muscle groups — arms, legs, neck, and back.

“Try walking 10 minutes every day for a week,” suggests Dan. “Increase the duration by five minutes each week until you’re taking 30-minute walks.”

When you’re ready for more strenuous activity, do not exceed your body’s capability. If you experience pain, take a break. If the pain persists, stop completely and consult your physician.

Dan and his colleagues at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services frequently see patients with muscle and ligament sprains or tears. Depending on its severity, an injury could take weeks or months to heal and may require physical therapy or surgery.
Lower back strains are most common. As Dan explains, people tend to regularly lift more than they are able, using incorrect techniques, stressing back muscles.

“Gardeners, for example, should be careful when lifting heavy bags of fertilizer or soil,” he said. “Be sure to bend at the knees, keep your head up and back arched, hold the weight close to your body and spread your feet for a good base of support while you lift.”

After any activity, Dan suggests doing some light stretching. This helps avoid muscle aches or soreness. And next winter, don’t let the lack of sunlight or your busy holiday schedule deter you from exercising.

“As we get older, it becomes more difficult to jump back into activities we may have previously done,” Dan says. “It’s important to stay active year-round so we maintain our strength and flexibility.”
Article provided by UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, www.upmc.com/4CRS

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