“My Back hurts, but it’s just old age”
“My Knee gives way, but it’s just old age”
“My Hip is sore, but it’s just old age”
Something we hear often in our practice is patients and their families putting aches and pains down to “old age”.
For some reason, once people reach their mid forties (or even mid thirties) they expect their body to give up on them and break down. Little niggles become more frequent and eventually part of daily life. Clicking or grinding in the joints becomes normal. Enjoyable pastimes and exercise are now seen as damaging, and reduced or even stopped completely. It’s entrenched in our culture that our bodies aren’t built to last past middle age. But is it actually true?
The first thing I like to ask people who say their knee/hip/shoulder pain is due to old age is: “so is your other knee/hip/shoulder younger?”
This might sound flippant, but it highlights an important point – if this was just because of age, you would expect it to happen to everyone, and every joint. Often the response is “Well I use that side more, and now it’s worn out” – but this isn’t the same as age! Suddenly that person has acknowledged that their pain is due to the way their body has been used for long periods of time – not how old it is. So it stands to reason that if we take better care of our body, it will last us longer. In fact, many people who feel their joints are “worn out” can still lose the pain by improving the health of the surrounding tissues.
But for some reason the idea of preventative care for your muscles and joints isn’t as accepted as it should be.
Most people only start thinking about their body when they experience pain, and assume if there’s no pain then there’s no problem. But we don’t think this way about other aspects of health – let’s take teeth for an example. Everyone knows that preventative dental care is important: brushing, flossing, and occasional checkups. If we treated our teeth the way we treat our muscles and joints, no-one would floss, brush, or have checkups. Over time our teeth would turn yellow, rot and fall out, and we’d only see the dentist if we had toothache. And most people’s response to this would be
“Oh that’s just old age, everyone’s teeth fall out when they reach 40!”
But there’s an extra problem when we treat our body this way. If you believe your knee pain is because of “old age”, you will treat it differently.
You’ll probably worry about “wear and tear”, and probably use it less. You’ll probably avoid exercising it, allowing the muscles to weaken further. And when it get’s worse, that will “prove” to you that it’s old age – the older you get the worse it feels. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!
So what should we do instead? Firstly, we should all recognise the importance of preventative care – avoiding prolonged sitting and inactivity, regular stretching, and exercise.
There is a huge variety of exercise to choose from, it doesn’t just have to be in a gym. Swimming, Pilates, Tai Chi, stretching, walking are all good ways to prevent future aches and pains. Obviously, that’s not to say the body doesn’t change as we age (70-year-olds aren’t going to win gold at the Olympics, after all). Our maximum potential strength and flexibility does decline with age, but pain is not normal. And given that many people don’t reach their maximum potential in their earlier years anyway, this doesn’t even have to be noticeable. Once they recognise the benefits to keeping active and preventative care, many of our patients become stronger and more flexible in their 40’s and 50’s than they were in their 20’s!
Secondly, consider periodic check-ups with a Chiropractor to spot any problems before they become symptomatic. Just like dental checkups, or an MOT for your car, occasional visits allow us to nip problems in the bud.
Lastly, never tell yourself “it’s just old age”! Muscles and joints need regular movement in order to be healthy – one of the best ways to both prevent but also treat arthritis is regular movement and exercise. If you aren’t sure where to start or need advice, give us a call and pop in for a Free Spine & Joint Check at either the Sevenoaks or Beckenham Chiropractic Clinic.