“Dem bones” can cause pain as we age

Our body is a wonderous interconnected organism.

We learned that fact as kids. Remember that old song, “Dem Bones.” The leg bone's connected to the knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone. Now shake dem skeleton bones!

As we get older, that system is more fragile, and when it is thrown out of balance, a warning, in the form of pain, may appear in a totally new place. That’s what happened to me.

At almost 66 years old, I have been fortunate to never have lower back pain. Until now.

Lying in bed hurts, sitting in a chair hurts, walking hurts and bending down to pick up something off the floor hurts. Not incapacitating hurt, but I certainly have new appreciation for the folks who have back pain in their lives.

It turns out I am in good company. Lower back pain is the most common type of chronic pain in America.

Besides walking, gentle stretching, using a heating pad, and an oral analgesic, I am also trying to understand the root cause of my new pain.

It began about a month ago.

Two things happened at that time. First, I decided to use a gel toe spacer to self-treat my overlapping big toe. And secondly, I bought some new HOKA® running shoes.

I was due for a new pair of “sneakers.”  I know, sneakers is an old fashioned term from my New England upbringing but I still call them that, like my dad used to call his jeans “dungarees.”

But I digress. I have heard friends talking about HOKAs®. They say Hoka shoes can be good for older adults because they are lightweight, stable, and cushioned, which can help absorb impact on joints like the knees, hips, and ankles. And I remember the last time I went to the foot doctor; he had a list of approved shoes and HOKAs® were on that list. I am not promoting HOKAs®, just relaying what I have read and heard. Time will tell if they are good for me.

Could the gel spacer be contributing to my back pain?  Given our interconnected body systems, it is more than likely. So, now I am in the process of discontinuing the gel spacer and seeing if there is any improvement. I am going to give it a few weeks to see if my body returns to its natural alignment. If it does not, I will make a doctor appointment.

Getting older impacts our bodies. As we age, our muscles get tighter, our tendons and ligaments become less flexible, and our bodies take longer to heal from injury.

What can be done to prevent body aches? According to Robert Fay, a physical therapist, “Staying physically active keeps our blood circulating, which can keep our joints healthy and reduce pain. Additionally, it strengthens the muscles around our joints, taking pressure off the joint and bone.”

He further notes, “Always talk to your doctor first if you are considering a new exercise program.”

In the meantime, as I refrain from physical activity, I am feeling really guilty. I am used to doing my fair share of physical labor at the office and at home and I just can’t unless I want to cause further pain. I pride myself on not asking anyone to do something I would not do myself, but that’s impossible now.

I am getting my taste of interdependence a bit early. Relying on others for some things as they rely upon me for others. I can see how this stage of life, even if it is temporary, is hard to experience without a level of guilt.

Just another one of life’s lessons as we age.


Categories: Elder HealthNumber of views: 18

Tags: back pain

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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