Does It Take Longer To Heal As You Get Older? Part II | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Does It Take Longer To Heal As You Get Older? Part II

June 6, 2019

We asked this question in our previous blog, and we discussed the importance of rest, recovery, and sleep for all athletes, regardless of age. But some of us may have experienced that feeling of it taking longer to fully recover from intense exercise — and injuries — as we age. In fact, it may mean that you’re more likely to need physical therapy in Doylestown for your neck pain. So the question remains: Does it take longer to heal as you get older?

The short answer is yes. As you age, your body relies on more and more recovery time. The way age affects our fitness levels is well-known and highly-researched. Past the age of around 40 years, there are decreases in your maximum heart rate, lean body mass, VO2 max, and a reduction in your training output and performance. And of course, recovery, especially after an injury,  seems like it takes longer — because it does.

The (Possible) Culprits

While this seems like an obvious conclusion to make, the science and physiological causes behind it are still not fully known. Researchers are still trying to understand why we’re more susceptible to injury as we age and why it takes longer to recover. However, they do have some working theories. Let’s take a look…

Cell Exhaustion

When you sustain a muscle injury, muscle stem cells are the main source of regeneration for the affected area. As specialized muscle stem cells, they lie dormant until muscle cells are damaged, after which they activate and multiply, helping to rebuild the muscle. However, as we age, the function of these cells can diminish over time, resulting in compromised effectiveness and increased recovery time.  

Altered Biochemical and Tissue Conditions

As you get older, your hormone levels will change. For instance, testosterone can lower, and researchers think that this could be a significant factor in impaired muscle healing over time. Not only that, but over time, collagen, which is involved in muscle regeneration, also declines as we age. We can even develop issues with malabsorption as we age, meaning we don’t absorb the vitamins we need to heal as quickly and efficiently as we previously did.

Heightened Inflammatory Response  

Whenever you get injured, you’ll experience an inflammatory response. While this is a vital part of the recovery process, there can be too much or not enough; it needs to be regulated. As we age, we generally have more inflammatory cells that accumulate in damaged muscles, and those cells typically won’t function as well as when we were younger. This leads to impaired recovery and delayed healing.

It’s crucial to remember that some of these factors are out of your control, at least for now. Whatever the case or cause of the delayed recovery times we experience as we age, we need to not only get the proper amount of rest, sleep, and recovery time, but also be vigilant in consuming vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to reduce stress on our body, protect it, and repair the damage due to exercise and injury.

For more information on injury recovery or how physical therapy can help your shoulder pain in Doylestown, call us today at 215-703-2529.