Getting better while getting older

In celebration of getting older (ugh), I’d like to talk about the aches and pains that I used to experience but no longer have. Most of us expect physical issues to get worse with age, but I’m here to say that’s not necessarily so. If you suffer from neck, knee, carpel tunnel or lower back pain, this two-part article may dramatically improve your life. If you have a different set of irritations or if my solutions don’t provide the same results for you, I hope this article still encourages you to persevere; there may be a way to be pain free.

Knee pain first. Years ago, after running nine miles with the San Francisco Fleet Feet running group, I experienced a fabulous runner’s high. The problem is, I hadn’t properly worked up to that distance; I was a five-mile girl. The next morning, my knees were not the least bit happy. They hurt and continued to hurt for eight long years—until I gave up running for a solid period of nine months. In those nine months, as you may have guessed, I was pregnant, and walking fast was sufficient to get my heart pounding. Three weeks after my bright baby boy was born, I went on a light run and what a sweet surprise: no more knee pain! Sometimes, we just have to discipline ourselves not to do our favorite exercise so healing can happen. It’s been many years since; I run regularly and have no knee pain whatsoever.

A pain in the neck. I used to have constant neck pain. I found a chiropractor, paid him a lot of money, and had my neck cracked—loudly—on a regular basis. It was scary, but I was really hurting and it brought some relief. I regret to tell you, however, that this particular chiropractor never commented on my posture nor asked me about my work to understand why I had the pain in the first place. Also, the relief he provided only lasted a few hours. One day in desperation, I voiced a prayer (not to the chiropractor but to someone superior): “Lord, what can I do about this pain?” Just then, my daughter returned from her ballet class. She walked into the room with really good posture for a little kid, and enthusiastically repeated the words of her dance teacher: “Stand tall, shoulders back, and lift your chest like a string is pulling it to the sky!” This was the instruction I needed! And it worked!

I was so encouraged by this simple solution that I decided to correct my sitting posture, as well. I went to the local TAP Plastics store and hired them to make a stand to lift my monitor so it was the perfect height for my neck to stay straight. I also got a new chair (thank you, Charlie the Chair Man). Today, I have no chiropractor bills and no neck pain—unless I take a long ride on my bicycle where my neck is bent for two hours. According to Women’s Cycling.ca, good posture can be maintained even on a bike, so I guess I need to work on that next.

MonitorStand_mouseCarpel tunnel syndrome. If you don’t know what Carpel tunnel syndrome is, lucky you, here’s a link. I used to have it pretty badly, waking throughout the night and shaking my fingers to try to stop the tingling. My doctor gave me a steroid shot in both wrists to decrease swelling and jumpstart healing. He told me to buy wrist guards and wear them while I sleep. I dutifully wore the guards every night and did hand stretches throughout the day. I also bought a vertical mouse. Lastly, I bought a keyboard that lacks the sophisticated simplicity of an Apple keyboard, but it’s so much better for my hands.

After a while, I stopped wearing the wrist guard for the left hand because I no longer had any symptoms there. When my right hand started feeling better, I asked my doctor for a nerve conduction test. In this test, small shocks are passed through the median nerve to see if the impulses are slowed. Apparently, the shocks passed through my median nerve super speedy. Even the doctor was surprised. I now consider myself cured—although I still sleep with one wrist guard and use my wonderful vertical mouse to make sure it stays that way.

Tomorrow, I’ll relay my happy story with lower back pain. This is enough good news for one post.

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