The term “use it or lose it” turns out to be entirely accurate when it comes to our joints. While many consider arthritis a disease related to aging, it in fact has more to do with being sedentary, particularly after an injury. As Jennifer Penrose, owner of Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy in Olympia points out, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has found that changes occurring in the musculoskeletal system are due more to disuse than aging.

Simple exercises within the functional movement screening yield a great deal of information about overall structural health. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy

“Really what it comes down to is that if you’re not active and moving, you’re not getting the joints nutrition,” Penrose explains. “Your joints need the full range of motion to stay lubricated, and that lubrication has nutrients within it. There is no other way for the joints to get those and therefore they start to degenerate, which leads to arthritis.”

Her practice offers two types of screening to help clients understand their problem areas in order to prevent arthritis or any other injury. For those over 60-years-old, a Senior Fitness Screening measures strength, flexibility, stamina and balance. “There are cut off points that let you know where you stand compared to others in your age group,” says Penrose. “You’ll walk away knowing whether you’re where you should be or if you’re more at risk of falls or need to improve your stamina.”

For those under 60-years-old, the clinic provides a Functional Movement Screening that takes clients through a series of movements that yield important information about structural health. One example is a squat performed while holding onto an overhead dowel. “We watch how you move, how your thoracic spine, upper back and shoulders move,” says Penrose. “We can tell if your ankles are tight or your hips are weak and you’re compensating in your lumbar spine. There are a whole host of things we’re looking at.”

Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy offer Functional Movement Screenings and Senior Screenings at intervals throughout the year. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy

In some cases, clients are active and may visit the gym several times a week, but because their musculoskeletal system is off in a certain area, their risk of injury is heightened. “We see a lot of low back and knee injuries when people try to get into an exercise routine and they have some tightness or weakness in places,” Penrose notes. “They’re not aware of it and they end up with an injury.”

Based on the score the screening provides, clients understand what their next steps should be. “If you have enough issues added up to where you have some pain with movement, you may need physical therapy,” says Penrose. “If you just need some corrective exercises, working with a trainer might be just fine. The important thing about the screening is that it gives us a guide to prevent injury.”

Penrose Physical Therapy offers free senior fitness screenings every other month on Tuesday afternoons, please call for scheduling. Learn more by visiting the Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy website or calling 360.456.1444.

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