Getting older is never easy, and it usually comes with a price. As our bodies age, we start to notice that aches and pains we never experienced begin cropping up unexpectedly. Before long, we realize that these pains are not temporary aches but permanent changes in our bodies that are difficult to alleviate. Aging-related pain can strike at different ages in life depending on an individual’s general health and lifestyle habits.
Over 100 million Americans experience some form of chronic pain, while millions more also suffer from various types of acute pain. The sections below go over common sources of pain you may experience as you age, and what you can do to relieve them.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is without question the most common type of pain in America associated with aging. For those of us under 50 years of age who have not experienced any sort of major injury, back pain could be a result of our sedentary lifestyles and the long periods we spend seated at work or driving in our cars. It can also occur as a result of arthritis.
Lower back pain typically begins to present itself in our thirties and forties. However, it can strike at any age, and tends to get worse with time if we fail to intervene.
For those wishing to mitigate the discomfort of back pain, regular exercise including weight training and cardio routines provide significant benefits. Exercising increases blood flow and builds core muscle groups which directly support the spine, reducing pressure.
However, exercise is a long-term solution. For more immediate relief, heating pads and light stretching can help ease lower back pain.
There are garden-variety ones, or as the more serious migraine strain of headaches. Migraines are usually chronic and come with a host of unpleasant additional symptoms such as nausea and light sensitivity.
No one understands precisely what causes migraines, but they can be triggered by dehydration, muscle tension, menstruation, stress or changes in the weather. Even certain foods such as chocolate have been linked to the onset of migraine headaches.
Related Article: How to Prevent and Deal With Migraines
Individuals may begin developing chronic migraines anytime between their 20s and their 50s. Regular tension headaches in the forehead and/or temple area can be alleviated with some massage and other remedies like menthol rubs.
Drug therapies can also provide pain relief and can be purchased over-the-counter. These include medications such as:
- Specific migraine medications containing caffeine
Osteoarthritis occurs when the spongy layer of cartilage between bones and joints starts to deteriorate. The purpose of this cartilage is to absorb the shock and pounding associated with the repetitive use of the joints. It can strike anywhere, such as the hands, feet, elbows, knees, etc.
This painful condition may result as a matter of age-related changes in the body, after a serious injury or due to wear and tear associated with sports activities. Osteoarthritis usually strikes people who are in their sixties and seventies. More than one-third of all people over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis.
Being physically active is the best way to avoid developing osteoarthritis. By keeping the blood flowing the joints stay healthy and active which reduces the pain. It also strengthens the muscles associated with the joints which relieves much of the pressure placed on them.
Non-Arthritis Joint Pain
Sometimes people experience joint pain that is not a result of osteoarthritis. In most cases, pain in and around the joints not related to OA is often tendonitis. Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendon that connects bones to muscles.
Tendonitis typically occurs as a result of repetitive movements and flares up the more you move the affected area, in contrast to OA where increased movement can help relieve some of the pain. The more you move, the more tendonitis can irritate you.
Related Article: 7 Bad Habits That Cause Joint Pain
Tendonitis typically first appears around the age of 40. As you age, your tendons will begin to lose their elasticity and become more susceptible to injuries and inflammation. To mitigate pain from tendonitis, doctors recommend a regimen to help you including:
- RICE – This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Take a break from whatever activity in which you may be engaging that causes a flare-up or further aggravates the affected area.
- Ice packs are inexpensive and effective ways to help reduce inflammation, and therefore pain.
- By wrapping the ice pack on the affected area with an ace bandage for tightness and compression, you reduce the blood flow to the area.
- Keeping the affected area propped up to help reduce the amount of blood flowing there keeps the swelling and inflammation down, which reduces the aches and pains.
- NSAID – These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen which are used to reduce inflammation.
One in seven women between the ages of 18 and 50 experience some form of chronic pelvic pain during their lifetime. It can range from sharp pain to a dull ache. It is not associated with menstruation but can be associated with endometriosis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Should you experience these symptoms for more than a few days, you should contact your physician. The cause of the pelvic pain determines which sort of therapy the doctor may suggest, including prescription painkillers or muscle relaxants.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain resulting from pressure or the squeezing of your nerve that runs from your arm to the palm of your hand. It presents as pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands and fingers.
The cause of this sort of pain is typically repetitive motion, such as typing or using the same sort of machinery over and over. Hereditary factors, arthritis, and hormonal changes brought about by menopause can also increase your chances of experiencing this condition. It normally begins during your mid-forties to mid-sixties.
Some physicians recommend exercise, occupational therapy, and physical therapy to relieve pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain relievers and even surgery may be required in some cases.
Muscle Strain or Pain
As we age, the fibers in our muscle tissue thin out and become less dense. This in turn makes them less flexible and more susceptible to things like injury and soreness after mild injuries or exercise.
Even regular, low-impact activities such as gardening may cause a bout of muscle soreness as we age. The best way to avoid these types of pain is to avoid injury. This may mean asking for help moving heavy object or having someone else take on more strenuous chores about the house.
Regular stretching and exercise including yoga and Pilates can help alleviate this type of pain. When you develop muscle aches, employ the RICE method and NSAIDs for immediate pain relief. However, for persistent or more acute pain, see your doctor.
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