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Friday, February 23, 2024

Why do people experience pain as they grow older?

As you enter the other side of 50s, you may have noticed that you experience more general body pains in virtually every part of your body.

Experts say this is because, as we age, our bones and joints become less elastic and more prone to wear and tear. Consequently, most seniors lose muscle mass and some of their strength and flexibility, making it harder to engage in physical activities without feeling some discomfort.

While you used to be able to go for 2 or 3-hour hikes without feeling any discomfort, now your hips get sore when you walk for an hour. And after a day of gardening, driving, or even doing certain house chores, it takes you a bit longer to recover from the strain.

Occupational therapist, 65-year-old Esther Kane, said the aches and pains that come with aging are caused by the natural wear and tear on our bodies over time and they can sometimes interfere with every daily activity.

Kane said the first step is to identify the type of pain and equip seniors and caregivers with the essential information and tools for aging gracefully and securely, because “common discomforts include joint pain due to arthritis, muscle stiffness, back pain, and bone density loss leading to osteoporosis.

Additionally, wear and tear on the knees, hips, and shoulders can cause discomfort. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and consulting with healthcare professionals can help manage these age-related pains.”

Various causes of hand pain. image credit: Medical News Today

A medical practitioner/physician,  Dr David Abia-Okon, shed more light, saying, “For some older adults, chronic illnesses such as arthritis or osteoporosis can make these aches and pains even worse. Living with this not only affects one’s daily life, but it can also affect mental health negatively.

“Whether these aches and pains are due to musculoskeletal conditions or just the natural aging process, as we age, they become almost like a badge of honor, a rite of passage that signifies the many hurdles we’ve overcome and the experiences we’ve gathered.”

According to Kane, back pain is the most common type of chronic pain while ageing. It’s a testament to the active and dynamic lives many of us have led.

Arthritis or common knee pain

But what are some of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to these age-related back pain and changes in older adults? A physician, Dr Olusola Bamitale Adeyelu, offered these insights:

Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity, especially as we age, can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness, making us more prone to developing back problems.

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Improper lifting techniques: Throughout our lives, many of us have probably lifted heavy objects without much thought. However, as we age, our bodies become more delicate, and lifting things incorrectly can lead to injuries.

Repetitive motions: Some occupations or hobbies may require performing the same movements repeatedly, leading to wear and tear on specific body parts like the back.

Obesity: Carrying extra weight puts more strain on our bodies, making it harder for our backs to support us.

While these are not the only reasons behind back pain in older adults, they serve as a reminder that our lifestyle choices can significantly impact our physical health as we age, “It’s never too late to make positive changes and prioritise our overall well-being.

Older adults need to keep up with an active lifestyle and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent and manage these normal aches and pains of aging. And also, to seek medical attention,” explained the consultant to Agewell Healthcare limited, Lagos, Prof Sunday Baderinwa Adewale.

Prof Adewale, who also specialised in Acupuncture/Physical therapy, said a proactive approach to managing back pain isn’t just about seeking relief; it’s about reclaiming our lives and continuing to create new memories without being held back.

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“Regular exercises, especially those that focus on strength training and cardio, can be our most significant allies in this journey. These exercises not only alleviate the pain but also serve as a reminder of the strength and vitality that still reside within us,” he added.

And for those who are unsure about which exercises to start with or are hesitant due to the fear of exacerbating the pain, seeking professional guidance can be invaluable, according to a physiotherapist, Ayobami Fasuba.

Fasuba explained that physical therapy, tailored to our individual needs and challenges, can offer both relief and a roadmap to a more active and pain-free life, “you can also modify your home to accommodate your new health needs.”

Remember, it’s never too late to take control and make a positive change.

Theresa Arike
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