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  • Writer's pictureNashville PT

Degeneration: normal age related changes or something to be concerned about?




You know how we often notice wrinkles and grey hair as we get older? Well, it turns out that just like those visible signs of aging on the outside, our bodies also experience some natural changes on the inside. It's like our body's way of showing that we've been around the block a few times.


Think of it this way: just as wrinkles and grey hair are part of the aging process for our skin and hair, degeneration is a normal part of the aging process for our internal body systems. Our joints may start to feel a little creakier, our bones may lose some density, and our muscles might not be as strong as they used to be. It's all part of the package deal of getting older.



But here's the thing: just as we can take care of our skin and hair to keep them looking and feeling their best, we can also take steps to support our internal systems. Staying active, eating a balanced diet, and taking care of our overall health can help slow down the rate of degeneration and keep us feeling vibrant and healthy for as long as possible.


So, while we may not be able to stop the clock entirely, understanding that degeneration on the inside is a natural part of aging, just like wrinkles and grey hair on the outside, can help us embrace the process and take proactive steps to age gracefully.


Yes, degeneration in the body is a normal part of the aging process. As we age, our body undergoes various changes at the cellular, tissue, and organ levels. These changes can lead to a gradual decline in the structure and function of different body systems.



Some common examples of age-related degeneration include:


1. Joint degeneration: Joint structures, such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, may undergo wear and tear over time, leading to conditions like osteoarthritis. This can result in joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.


2. Bone density loss: As we age, there is a natural decline in bone density, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.


3. Muscle mass and strength decline: Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, can occur due to a combination of factors, including hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, and changes in protein synthesis. This can lead to a decrease in muscle mass, strength, and overall physical performance.


4. Changes in cardiovascular system: Blood vessels may become less flexible and more prone to the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, which can lead to reduced blood flow and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.


5. Changes in cognitive function: Aging can be associated with mild cognitive decline and an increased risk of conditions like dementia.


While age-related degeneration is a natural process, lifestyle factors can influence its progression. Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, and avoiding harmful habits (such as smoking) can help mitigate some of the effects of aging on the body. It's important to note that while degeneration is common, not all age-related changes are inevitable or severe. Healthy lifestyle choices and appropriate medical care can help optimize overall health and well-being as we age.


Physical Therapy and Normal Age Related Degeneration


Physical therapy plays a vital role in combating the effects of age-related degeneration and helping individuals maintain their quality of life as they age. A skilled physical therapist can develop personalized exercise programs to target specific areas affected by degeneration, such as joint mobility, muscle strength, and balance.


For joint degeneration, physical therapy can focus on improving joint stability, flexibility, and reducing pain through exercises, manual therapy techniques, and modalities. By addressing muscle imbalances, range of motion limitations, and biomechanical issues, physical therapy can help individuals regain or maintain functional movement and reduce joint discomfort.


In terms of bone density loss, physical therapists can incorporate weight-bearing exercises and resistance training into rehabilitation programs. These exercises help stimulate bone remodeling and improve bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and promoting overall skeletal health.


To combat muscle mass and strength decline, physical therapists prescribe exercises that target muscle groups affected by sarcopenia. Resistance training, functional movements, and balance exercises can help improve muscle strength, increase muscle mass, and enhance overall physical performance.


Physical therapy interventions also extend to the cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercises prescribed by physical therapists can help improve cardiovascular health, increase endurance, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases associated with age-related changes.


Cognitive function can also benefit from physical therapy interventions. Research has shown that physical activity and exercise have positive effects on cognitive function and can potentially help delay or mitigate cognitive decline.


Overall, physical therapy offers a comprehensive approach to address age-related degeneration. By customizing treatment plans, monitoring progress, and providing education on proper body mechanics and injury prevention, physical therapists empower individuals to proactively manage their health and maintain their independence as they age.


References:


American Physical Therapy Association. (2021). Healthy Aging. Retrieved from https://www.choosept.com/conditions-treatments-detail/physical-therapy-guide-to-healthy-aging


McPhee, J. S., French, D. P., Jackson, D., Nazroo, J., Pendleton, N., & Degens, H. (2016). Physical activity in older age: Perspectives for healthy aging and frailty. Biogerontology, 17(3), 567-580.


Papa, E. V., Dong, X., & Hassan, M. (2017). Resistance training for activity limitations in older adults with skeletal muscle function deficits: A systematic review. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 12, 955-961.


Sun, F., Norman, I. J., & While, A. E. (2013). Physical activity in older people: A systematic review. BMC Public Health, 13, 449.

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