Aging Doesn’t Have to Be a Pain
Over the past couple of days, I have had multiple patients ask me if the pain that they are seeking physical therapy for is just supposed to be their “new normal” or if their expectations are too high for how they are supposed to feel at their age. I was kind of taken back by these questions at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this has become somewhat of the expectation. We have set the bar low in believing that the older you get, the more pain you will feel, and the less you will be able to do. I mean we hear phrases all of the time: “Don’t get old”,” “It’s just part of getting old”, or my personal favorite: “It’s hell getting old” (pardon my French). However, what if I told you that this expectation does not have to be your reality?
I would like to share a quote with you from one of my patients following our treatment session the other day. She said, “I didn’t realize how much pain I was in until you showed me what it was like to not have any”. She was going through life with her hip being an annoyance any time she went up her stairs at home or got in and out of her car. She didn’t consider it painful at the time, just annoying. However, after we helped her hips move better and gave her a little more stability, she realized what her hips are supposed to feel like when doing those activities. It made me start to wonder how many other people are also putting up with these annoyances every day and accepting that it is just part of aging?
You may be thinking “Well, it’s not that bad”, “I just feel stiff”, or “There is nothing that physical therapy can do to reverse x,y,z”. These are all very normal thoughts as that has been the expectation that has been set over the years. However, what if you didn’t have to even deal with that stiffness and what if there actually is something that physical therapy can do to help? We all know that with aging, we get wrinkles on the outside of our bodies. We don’t necessarily love them, but they happen. We also get wrinkles on the inside of our bodies. These wrinkles may sound like diagnoses you have heard in the past: arthritis, bulging discs, cartilage changes etc. At first, when we hear these words, they sound somewhat intimidating and our minds begin to wonder: am I going to need surgery? Even though we might like to have surgery to fix the wrinkles on the outside of our bodies, we don’t necessarily need them. Likewise, we don’t necessarily need surgery to fix wrinkles on the inside either. In addition, just like how wrinkles on the outside of our bodies aren’t always painful or don’t always prevent us from doing the things we love, the wrinkles inside our bodies don’t have to either. The inside wrinkles might make you feel stiff and like it is not as easy to move as it once was, but even then, that does not have to be the case. What if physical therapy could decrease that stiffness and make your hobbies even more enjoyable for you? By going to physical therapy and having routine movement assessments, we can make sure everything is moving the way you need it to be so that you can do all of the movements and activities you want to regardless of your age. These movement screens also help us make sure that there aren’t any limitations that may lead to pain or difficulties performing your hobbies later in life.
You could compare physical therapists to mechanics. So, imagine if we took care of our bodies the way that it is recommended that we take care of our cars. For example, approximately every 3,000 miles, the “Maintenance Required” light will pop up on my car’s dashboard. I go to my local mechanic where they analyze various aspects of my car; if the analysis indicates that my car is not operating at top efficiency, they provide suggestions on how to improve its performance. If I wait too long to address the problems, my car is not going to work as well. Parts are going to begin to wear and tear, even the ones that may not have originally been the problem. If I keep driving my car like this, it is going to struggle driving speeds and distances that used to be routine and it could even lead to costly repairs down the road (no pun intended). Trust me, been there, done that. You could use this same analogy for the human body. Say you wake up one morning, and your hip doesn’t feel quite right. This is your “Maintenance Required” light popping up on your dashboard. You continue with your daily routine for a few weeks in hopes that the stiffness goes away, but it doesn’t. If you ignore this and consider it part of aging, it may cause other parts of your body to compensate and get overworked, which could lead to difficulty, and maybe inability, doing the things that used to be routine. Hopefully it does not eventually lead to costly repairs. Imagine this: instead of ignoring the “Maintenance Required” light when you woke up, you went to go see your physical therapist. They did a movement screen, found different areas of your body that are not moving as well as they need to, and you got treatment for a couple of weeks to correct the problem before it got worse. As a result, you did not have to alter or stop doing the things you do every day, and that pesky hip pain is no more.
Remember that patient I talked about in the beginning of this blog? I shared her story to provide a real-life example of how important it is to make sure our bodies are moving well with or without pain and to reiterate that pain does not have to be a part of getting old. By participating in regular movement screens and having occasional physical therapy check-ups, we can raise the bar on our expectations and prevent aging from limiting your ability to do the things you love. Let’s make this reality the new expectation: aging doesn’t have to be a pain.
If you have any questions about anything you are experiencing, or wonder if physical therapy could help you, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . In addition, if you would like to set up an evaluation or movement screen with one of our physical therapists, feel free to contact our office at 270-926-8145.