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Exercise, Sports And Bursitis

By Kate Maliha

We are living in good times for those who are aged 50 and older. We can expect to live longer and in better health than our counterparts from generations past. Those in their middle years to early retirement years are much more active than their parents were at the same ages. Participation in sports such as golf and tennis, as well as fitness activities such as yoga and weight training, are popular for those in their fifties, sixties, seventies and even beyond. However, there is a down side to all this activity, and that is the development of inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and tendonitis due to joint overuse. The Mayo Clinic has even coined the term “Boomeritis” to describe this phenomenon. While increased sport and exercise participation is an important way to avoid disease and functional decline, it is prudent to follow some guidelines to protect your joints and avoid becoming part of the “boomeritis” statistic.

What are the definitions of tendonitis and bursitis?

Both tendonitis and bursitis are common overuse injuries associated with exercise, sports, or repetitive movements. Tendonitis is inflammation of the thick fibrous cords attaching muscles to bones. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa (small sac which cushions the joints) Bursae are located where the bones, muscles and tendons move at a joint. Since a discussion of both conditions involving multiple joints would be complicated, this article will primarily discuss bursitis of the elbow joint.

Bursitis of the elbow joint is quite common for those who participate in yoga, weight training, golf and tennis. For yoga, poses such as downward dog, yoga push-up, and side plank can place extreme stress on the elbow joints. In the gym, repetitive movements or too much weight used during exercises such as biceps curls and triceps extension can lead to elbow bursitis. For sports such as golf and tennis, the repetitive flexion and extension at the elbow joint coupled with weakness of the wrists, forearms, and shoulder rotators can lead to elbow injury and bursitis. For all of these sports and activities, it is prudent to do the following in order to minimize your risk of injury

  • Before exercise, adequately warm up with rhythmic activity for 10-15 minutes.
  • Make sure your alignment on all exercises is good. Check with an instructor to ensure your form is good and your joints are safe.
  • Avoid locking or hyperextending your joints.
  • Make sure you strengthen your joints prior to increasing your load, duration, or frequency of your activity.
  • For elbow joint safety, strengthen and stretch the forearms and wrists and strengthen the shoulder rotator cuff muscles.

Forearm strengthening (pronation and supination) – 3 sets of 5 reps each:

Hold a 1-3 pound dumbbell vertically, as if you’re shaking hands, with your elbow stabilized at your side and bent to 90 degrees. With control, slowly turn the forearm upward while keeping the wrist straight and the elbow pushed into the side. Return to the starting position and slowly turn the forearm downward in the opposite direction.

Rotator Cuff strengthening – 3 sets of 5 reps each

Using resistance tubing in a standing position or a light dumbbell in a side lying position, start with your arm across your abdomen and your elbow tucked in by your side. Slowly move the hand away from the midline of your body (away from you). You should feel this exercise in the shoulder on the side you are working.

Kate Maliha, MA (HKin) has a Master’s degree in Human Kinetics and has conducted aging research at the University of British Columbia. She is the owner of Love Your Age (www.LoveYourAge.ca), a fitness company specializing in the exercise needs of seniors. As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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