Rehab Strategies After an Injury for Older Adults

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we understand that no two injuries are alike—nor are the individuals who come to us for help. Our team of expert physiatrists employs a holistic approach to pain management and restoration of function, designing each treatment program to align not only with the specific nature of the patient’s injury but also with the patient’s overall profile. This includes careful consideration of medical history, pre-existing conditions, and importantly, age.

Common Causes of Injuries in Older People

Older adults face unique risks for injuries, primarily due to factors such as diminished balance, bone density, muscle strength, and eyesight. Their bodies are also more vulnerable to injury. Common causes of traumatic injuries in older individuals include falls, overexertion, and accidents while doing chores, driving, or being involved in recreational activities. Understanding these risks is the first step in preventing injuries and designing effective rehabilitation programs.

How Aging Changes the Healing Process in Older Patients

All parts of the body age, making movement more difficult and everyday life more challenging.

Changes in Muscles

Aging typically leads to decreased muscle mass and flexibility, affecting the healing rate after injury. This loss of muscle can also prolong recovery and increase the risk of further injuries.

Changes in Bone

As we age, bones often become more brittle and less dense—a condition known as osteopenia or, as it worsens, osteoporosis. This can complicate the healing of fractures and requires specific adjustments in rehabilitation practices. Also, osteoarthritis often negatively impacts the joints, and cartilage erodes.

Changes in Skin

Older skin is thinner, drier, and less elastic, which makes skin more vulnerable to injury and slower to mend. It also affects how the skin tolerates certain therapies, bandages, and braces.

Changes in Strength

Reductions in overall strength can affect an older adult’s ability to participate in traditional rehabilitation exercises without modifications.

Changes in Stamina

Stamina diminishes with age, which means that older adults may need shorter, more frequent rehabilitation sessions to prevent exhaustion and ensure optimal results.

The Importance of Individual Evaluation Before Rehabilitation

Each rehabilitation plan at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine starts with a comprehensive evaluation that considers the patient’s pre-existing conditions, history of previous injuries and surgeries, medications, and general health. This step is crucial in determining how our doctors will customize the treatment program to address the particular patient’s needs safely and effectively. 

How Long Island Spine Customizes Rehabilitation for Older Patients

As rehabilitation specialists, our doctors have a broad spectrum of treatment methods to choose from. Though all have track records of success, we take into account the details of the patient’s profile and their own personal preferences.  

Treatments Considered

We consider a variety of treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), prolotherapy, and corticosteroid injections. Each therapy is chosen based on its effectiveness and suitability for the patient’s specific conditions and needs.

Modifications

For older adults, modifications to the rehabilitation program are often necessary. These may include adjusting the frequency and/or duration of sessions, the intensity of exercises, and even the patient’s positions — e.g. sitting instead of standing exercises to reduce strain and risk of falls. 

The Importance of Emotional Support & Family Involvement 

Healing is not just a physical process, but an emotional one as well. Family involvement and emotional support are integral to the rehabilitation process, providing motivation and reducing the psychological burden of the challenging tasks involved in recovery. This may be especially true for older patients who may need reminders and encouragement to stay with the program.

Contact Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, Where Doctor-Patient Collaboration Is Key 

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we recognize the importance of a positive relationship between doctor and patient as an essential part of the healing process. Therefore, when you come to us for rehabilitation after a traumatic injury, we will be fully transparent about how each therapy works and which therapies, in combination, are likely to work most effectively in your case. No matter what your age, we are determined to make you robust, energized, and comfortable. Contact our experienced physiatrists today to recover from your injury and reclaim your life.