Aches and pains are common as you age, but they are not a “normal” part of aging. Your body communicates through sensation. Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. Pain can be a mild ache, severe shooting pain, or something in between. The quality of the pain can tell you how quickly you need to act or if you need to intervene at all.
We like to blame aches and pains on just getting older, but that’s not really true. More likely, pain is due to deconditioning in a particular part of your body. When you strengthen that body part, the pain goes away, no matter how old you are! What you do with your body matters.
When it comes to conditions like spinal stenosis, bulging discs, or disc degeneration causing pain, these conditions don’t develop for no reason. Years of poor posture, gravity, and not strengthening the core properly can lead to these kinds of conditions. Everyone over 50 has disc degeneration, but not everyone has pain. What you do with your body can make all the difference.
Not all pain is the same
There are different types of pain and they tell us different things. Some pain, when you ignore it, becomes worse and more significant. Some pain, when you ignore it, either goes away or stays the same. Being able to “listen” to your body and understand what it’s telling you will keep you from hurting yourself further.
Some pain feels better when you move your body, some pain feels better with rest. Does your pain feel better first thing in the morning when you wake up or do you need to move around to feel better? These are important things to notice so that you know how to help yourself. Morning muscle stiffness usually responds better to movement than to rest.
Using heat or ice can make different types of pain better or worse. Muscular pain responds better to heat, than ice. Ice slows blood flow and cold contracts. If you injured your muscle, most likely heat will help as it will improve blood flow. Blood flow is how the body heals. When you use ice with a muscle pull or strain, you are slowing down the body’s natural healing ability. If you ice a muscle strain or spasm, it will make the muscle tighter and it will feel worse. Plus, you will actually slow the healing process.
How you think about your body can affect how it feels. If you think pain is simply a part of aging, then there is nothing you can do about it and you need to just accept things as they are. “Suck it up, Buttercup. You just need to be in pain and deal with it.” Sounds like a recipe for depression.
However, if you understand that pain is NOT a normal part of aging, then you get to be a force for change. Taking action helps your mind as well as your body. Knowing that you have the power to change how you feel can lift you out of depression and move you toward actual physical improvement.
Much of the time, pain is due to a part of the body either being too tight or too weak to sustain the movements we perform through the day. If a muscle is too tight, it will restrict your movement, causing pain. It might be the reason that you cannot maintain good posture as you walk or stand up. If a muscle is too weak, you will compensate using other muscles which will strain from being used in a way they weren’t designed for. Overusing some muscles and underusing others is a common source of pain.
Yoga for conditioning
Whether you are conditioning yourself for a sport or event, or simply cross-training for life, Yoga is one of the best practices you can have. Practicing yoga can undo many of the physical imbalances that lead to repetitive strain injuries when we play sports, like golf or tennis.
Stretching all parts of your body through a yoga practice will loosen up tight areas, giving you more range of motion and more freedom of movement. Strengthening and core stability are also “side effects” of practicing yoga. Balance practice helps you move through you day and adapt to the uneven surfaces you sometimes find yourself on.
A regular yoga practice, even just a couple of times per week, can make a difference in how you feel in your life off the mat. The more frequently your practice, the better your conditioning and the less pain you will feel over all. Even when you are over 50, pain doesn’t need to be part of your daily experience.
Join the free 10×10 Core Challenge coming January 3-12, 2024! 10 days of 10 minute core classes to strengthen all 4 abdominal muscles, your pelvic floor, glutes, inner thighs, spinal muscles, and hip flexors. Spend 10 minutes a day to have a stronger core and more stable pelvis to prevent or alleviate lower back pain and “leakage!” Click here to sign up!
Join regular online classes at Purple Room Yoga, Online Yoga Studio! All classes are available live or on demand. The Video Library contains classes, tutorials, as well as workshops and challenges that happened in the Facebook Group. Click here to see the full schedule of classes, and here for the On Demand Video Library.
Get your free copy of “The Over 50 Body/Mind Handbook.” If you are GenX or a Baby Boomer and you feel like your body is falling apart, this eBook will give you actionable tips on how to put yourself back together, and feel better moving forward. Click here for more information or to get the eBook!