THE BLOG

Longevity vs. Durability: Can You Have Both?

07/16/2014 08:46 pm ET | Updated Sep 15, 2014

We've extended the warranty on the human heart, and people are living longer. We've improved care for skin, and people look better. But it's your frame that gets you where you need to go whenever you need to get there. Without the proper care, your bones and joints can all too easily become the limiting factor in your enjoyment of life. Have you outlived the warranty on your frame? Would you like an extended warranty?

I have come to believe that the achievement of longevity will bring the challenge of durability to the forefront of modern healthcare.

Boomeritis is a term I coined for recognition of the wear, tear, vulnerabilities and injuries that most of us have or will develop with our musculoskeletal system, our frame. It's a durability issue.

I coined the term "Boomeritis" as a response to several observations in my personal and professional life. I have always been committed to exercise and fitness and I workout regularly. I began to notice that I could not go to the gym without several people coming up to me to ask questions about their aches and pains. I found the same questions about the same ailments being asked over and over. That is one of the down sides to being a pretty well known, reasonably accessible, sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon. Around the same time, in my private practice I was seeing a tremendous increase in musculoskeletal symptoms, ailments and injuries in active individuals. Most, but not all of the afflicted, both at the gym and office, were like me, born between the years 1946 and 1964 and were baby boomers.

I began to use the word "Boomeritis" with these patients, fellow exercisers and the media to describe the tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and most importantly the mindset of "Fix-Me-Itis" that I was seeing on a regular basis and the term stuck.

First I spoke of "Boomeritis" in jest, having some fun with my generation, the boomers, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I was on to something new conceptually, something that will be around for a long time. I was actually prompted to think deeper about this years ago by Claudia Kalb for her story "The Jock vs. The Clock" for Newsweek Magazine. It was a wonderful article that paved the road for the many to follow, and although she never used my term "Boomeritis", a new word, and epidemic, was born. In fact, musculoskeletal ailments have surpassed the common cold as the #1 reason for doctors visits in the USA, fueled in large part by the active aging population, especially the boomers.

"Boomeritis" is a relatively new phenomenon because the baby boomers are the first generation that is trying to stay active, in droves, on an aging frame. Fitness and activity are important keys to healthy aging. Certainly there were a few enlightened individuals before the boomers who adopted the active lifestyle, but in general, prior generations did not. My parents, for example, rarely if ever did planned exercise. If they tried something and were sore the following day, they would never go back to that activity again. Things have also changed in other ways. At the turn of the last century (Circa 1900) the average life expectancy was only 46. We are now living into our late 70's and even 80's in some countries.

Although we have extended our life span, we have not extended the warranty on our frame or musculoskeletal system and things breakdown. Various tissues, bone, tendon, muscle, spinal discs, etc. go through predictable wear and degeneration with aging. It's like gray hairs and wrinkles, we all get them. Many of these changes occur under the radar, without any symptoms. Add to this old injuries, planned overuse, and the "no pain, no gain" mindset and you have vulnerable parts, and orthopedic waiting rooms and OR's filled with these individuals. Conditions include shoulder rotator cuff tears and tendinitis, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, knee cartilage tears, arthritis, low back disc degeneration and/or herniation and many more musculoskeletal ailments.

Although boomers were the first to emerge with "Boomeritis" in large numbers, future generations, X, Y, and whatever will continue to live longer and have to contend with bones and joints that were not designed to go that distance, and parts are not always easy to get.

Too little exercise, or too much can get you into trouble and I believe there is tremendous things we can do to both live longer and live stronger. Although tissue changes are inevitable, problems are not! The solution lies with learning to listen to your body and seek expert help when things start to go wrong-sometimes even before (preventive maintenance). From a prevention standpoint, good nutrition and the right dose of balanced smart exercise go a long way towards a healthy frame.

If problems arise with your exercise program you need to be able to safely modify it or change it to allow you to keep going. I have found that approximately 80% of adults need some type of exercise modification to stay out of trouble. Certainly a one-size-fits-all approach to exercise will invite trouble.

The human body was built to move and does not do well when placed on the shelf. Sedentary behavior, all too common in this modern world, is not an option- it's as dangerous for your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. To insure strong frame, proper rehabilitation of old nagging injuries or chronic ailments are key. And a lifetime commitment to smart, balanced exercise routines, with appropriate modifications when necessary, is essential. You can learn more about this in my FrameWork series of books which provide a holistic approach to extending the warranty on your frame or body.

And for those who continue to breakdown, and need that "extended warranty" that exercise and other preventive measures can't provide, the present (and future) has never been brighter. Orthopedic surgeons are doing tremendous things with emerging regenerative technologies to give new life to aging frames. What I am talking about is creating a durable frame that can, and will go the distance. Longevity and durability.

Are you struggling to stay active because of a musculoskeletal problem? How do you work around it? Please share your story.