Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

A couple of weeks ago, I had arthroscopic knee surgery because of a fall more than a dozen years ago. It was partially exploratory to determine the next step as well as to “clean it up.” The next two weeks will determine my options, but total knee replacement is not necessary.

In order to go through this surgery, I had to get a second opinion and while the second doctor determined that surgery is necessary, it was his opinion that a total knee replacement should be considered “just in case” I might need one down the road. On the other hand, my world-renowned knee specialist said you never replace anything that’s in good condition and basically, other than my knee cap, my knee is in very good condition. But the most important lesson in this is to prevent falls in the first place and to prevent arthritis from creeping in.

Fitness expert Sonia Gow, in a previous post, shared her expertise about why people fall. She mentioned that falls are not a normal part of aging.

Did you know that falls are a leading cause of hospital admissions for people over 65? For those over 65, one in three will experience a fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 to 30 percent of the falls result in injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas with hospital bills averaging nearly $18,000 per patient.

According to Mary Tinetti, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, the more chronic health conditions you have, the more likely you are to suffer a fall.

  • Diabetes can worsen vision and desensitize nerves in the feet.
  • Depression can increase risk of falling.
  • Many medications cause dizziness and affect balance, especially sleep aids.

Other diseases causing a higher rate of falls include:

  • Circulatory disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Arthritis

Yoga and tai chi which has slow, rhythmic movements can help you with your balance. Don’t forget to strengthen your arms too since you can use them to steady yourself. Find a personal trainer or borrow/buy a DVD to help you.

Exercise is a 4 letter word

Sonia Gow leading a group of seniors

This is the time of year when you’ll see and hear a lot in the media about exercise. There are lots of reasons why it’s good for you:

  • lose weight
  • improved strength and flexibility
  • stronger bones
  • better sleep
  • help prevent diseases
  • more energy
  • alleviate pain

These are all valid reasons, but what if you don’t like the word exercise? What if it sounds like a really dreary, boring thing to do even when you know it’s good for you? When you’d much rather curl up with a book or be like my friend who says when she hears the word exercise she washes her mouth out with chocolate?

How about instead of using the word exercise we use the word movement? There are lots of ways to move our bodies:

  • dancing
  • gardening
  • walking
  • bowling
  • playing in a pool (walking, classes)
  • playing with grandchildren
  • mowing the lawn,
  • shoveling snow
  • and even cleaning the house!

I have a friend who puts on happy music and dances around the house. Another one bounces on a stability ball while she watches her favorite TV show. Whatever you do, it will work best if you enjoy what you’re doing, and you do it every day.

“If you rest, you rust.” Actress Helen Hayes.

I love this quote – for me it says it all. Maintain and increase your independence and control over your life. Forget about exercise and get moving!

This post was written by Sonia Gow.  She is a certified fitness instructor with special certifications in older adult fitness and aquatic exercise. Her focus is on balance and fall prevention through her Flamingos in Training program. The exercises she uses are also suitable for those with chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s, MS and arthritis, as well as post-rehab. Many are the same as those recommended by physical and occupational therapists. Sonia is a member of the International Council on Active Aging and volunteers with the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area. She was previously featured in another blog post. Click here.

She calls her exercise program, Flamingos in Training, because flamingos have good balance and so can you! She works primarily with older adults, and offers classes specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers, both land and aquatic, in the home and in retirement communities. For more information on her program, click here.

Sonia Gow in Hamstring Stretch

Sonia Gow in Hamstring Stretch

Wednesday, May 25, 2009 was National Senior Health and Fitness Day. As part of the celebration, Goodwin House in Alexandria, VA held their Senior Health and Fitness Day. Activities included speakers, a special luncheon, performers, and other activities. Sonia Gow, a certified fitness instructor with special certifications in older adult fitness & aquatic exercise, was one of the speakers. I’ve known Sonia for several years and she invited me to tag along and observe. She talked about reasons for falls and what you can do about it. Her company is called Flamingos in Training. Did you know flamingos have good balance? She assured us that we can, too.

She started by asking the audience of about 50 seniors whether any of them had fallen. She got a lot of chuckles.

Sonia felt that there are four reasons that people fall:

  1. External factors such as slippery floors, slippery shoes, loose clothing that catches on things, and many more.
  2. Internal reasons such as not seeing clearly or chronic diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s, inner ear disturbances causing dizziness or vertigo, foot disorders, lack of sleep, and many more.
  3. Medications: Older adults who take four or more medications are more likely to fall.
  4. Fear causing you to take small steps or shuffling and tendency to look down at your feet while walking.

She went on to say that the most important point is to be more active. The good news is that falls are not a normal part of aging. We need to keep moving; that’s what our bodies are designed for. She had a memorable phrase worth remembering: If you rest, you rust!img_5940-red

She talked about the benefits of being more active and she had us do a few exercises both in our chairs and standing. In her Flamingos in Training program, the exercises are designed for flexibility, strength, posture, walking, balance, coordination, endurance, agility. What’s practical about her program is that it’s designed for seniors to be able to function in every day living.

The five skills for better balance include:

  1. Walk and turn your head at the same time
  2. Extend the hip and back
  3. Reach down and pick up something
  4. Reach up
  5. Stand on one foot for five seconds, preferable 20 seconds. And if that is not enough of a challenge, close your eyes. Be sure you have something you can hold on to should you start to fall.

Sonia had her audience totally engaged in what she had to share. She ended with a demonstration of how to get up from the floor if you should fall. If possible, roll to one side first, then push yourself up and crawl to a chair or something to help you get up.

Finally, she said that falls are not inevitable and if you want to prevent them, you have to be active and practice the exercises. “Exercise is like chocolate: It makes you feel good, only it lasts longer and doesn’t make you fat.”

For more information on Sonia’s program check out Sonia’s Web site at