Remember the days when we rolled out of bed without a care in the world and hit the ground running? I know I do.
Now, some days it takes stretching and moaning, a hot shower, and about twenty minutes with my handheld back massager to get me ready for the day. Well, that and a double latte.
Muscle pain and maturity don’t have to go hand in hand. If you take care of your body, those aches and pains at 50 can be minimized.
Here are some thoughts into why our bodies give us grief as we age. We will review ways to strengthen and improve muscle tone, as well as next-day recovery. Most importantly, I’ll outline ways to use massage as a tool to help in the relief of those aches & pains at 50, and beyond.
Why Do We Stiffen up With Age?
It seems like there is a new ache every day. Whenever you sleep funny or pick up something the wrong way, your body makes you pay for it. It might seem like an obvious question (or answer) but why do we feel those aches & pains more at midlife?
Muscle Tension and Overuse
If you’re suffering from joint pains, you’re not alone. Over 23% of people in the USA have arthritic pain and many more suffer from common joint pains. What are some of the reasons so many people feel those aches & pains?
Ligaments & Tendons
As we age we tend to lose collagen, which is essential to keeping ligaments and tendons stretchy and lubricated. Unfortunately, as we stress the ligaments and tendons over time, they degrade. When these special muscles repair it is never as strong as before. They are finicky body parts and require a lot of care. Since it is easy to overextend them, the benefits of massage can really help.
Joints & Cartilage
Scrape, scrape, scrape go my knees again. Sometimes it sounds like I’m walking around a forest in the fall and my joints are dragging me into the autumn of my life. Aches & pains at 50 can be caused by decreasing cartilage and bone strength, which can cause significant changes in how your joints perform.
Cartilage is the covering in your joints. Imagine it as the rubbery handle on your favorite set of pliers: it keeps the metal from scraping your hands and insulates you from shock. So does the cartilage, by preventing the bones from scraping against each other. The loss of this barrier causes the joints to rub against each other, hence the pain.
If you’re suffering daily, it may be time to go to the doctor. You could be suffering from arthritis, diabetes, or a number of joint and ligament issues. Let’s look at some of the most common conditions.
This condition can be debilitating. Osteoarthritis affects over 27 million Americans. People as young as 30 can be affected, but it is more prevalent in people over 60. If you are feeling aches & pains at 50, it may be early arthritis. In the case of persistent stiff joints in the morning accompanied by sharp pain, see your doctor and get tested.
Lower Back Pain
The spine is a complex series of bones, cushioning discs, ligaments and nerves. As you age the gel-filled discs dry out and consequently the curvature of your spine that allows such free movement becomes less flexible and you become more stiff.
Although it’s often difficult to pinpoint exactly what is the cause of lower back pain there is no doubt that natural wear and tear of usage over the years have left us laying our hands to the back and arching to try and get some relief.
That being said experts tell us that there are 2 simple things we can do to alleviate the trivial pain of the lower back.
- Weight management
- Keep moving
The wear and tear on your spine through aging or repetitive actions can lead to spinal stenosis, a condition where nerves in the back are squished as spaces in your spine become narrowed too much. As well as associated back pain the outcome can be pins and needles, balance problems and loss of strength in the hands and arms.
Tendinitis & Tendinosis
While both of these conditions affect your tendons and ligaments, they have some significant differences.
Tendinitis is pain that results from overuse. You might have picked up a very heavy box moving your granddaughter into her college dorm. Maybe you slipped on the ice and pulled your elbow while landing.
Tendinosis, on the other hand, is long-standing pain resulting from chronic overuse. If you perform strenuous activities repeatedly, your tendons become weak. The collagen that lubricates this specialty muscle then degrades.
Common tendinosis types include:
- Golfer’s Elbow.
- Tennis Elbow.
- Kicker’s Knee.
- Achilles Tendon Tendinosis.
If you’re looking to treat any of these conditions, pain medication is an option. To avoid them altogether, stretching before doing your exercises, rest, and the occasional massage are very effective preventative measures.
Are Aches and Pains Inevitable After 50?
When pain strikes around age 50, it usually paints a gloomy picture of the future. That needn’t be the case. It is possible to age pain-free. Let’s look at some of the steps you can take:
Can Certain Foods Be Inflammatory and Cause Joint Pain?
We all know that cigarettes and alcohol can be bad for our over 50 bodies, but what about good old food?
Everything we put into our mouths affects the rest of the body. If you have inflamed joints and low cartilage, be generous to your body by making healthy food choices. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar, especially refined sugar, like sodas and candies.
Also, eat less or avoid:
- Red meats.
- Refined carbohydrates.
- Fried foods and fake fats.
Finding healthy choices can be easy. You don’t need to cook like a gourmet chef to enjoy a nice salad and a healthy dessert. Favor food that’s low in inflammatory properties:
- Green and leafy veggies.
- Fruits and berries.
- Fatty fish and healthy oils.
Can Weakness in Ligaments & Muscle Cause Pain?
You may feel the familiar muscle burns after a workout session, but this pain will save you from the much worse aches and pains of an aging body. Strengthening your muscles and ligaments will not only make you feel good, but you’ll “look good for your age” too—that’s one compliment I can never get enough of.
Core Strength and Weight Loss
Studies have shown that physical activity and strength training can benefit anyone, especially those who are feeling aches & pains over 50. If you’re overweight, losing that extra 10 pounds can have amazing health results. Your metabolism drops as you age, which can make it difficult to lose weight at 50.
That said, the benefits that come from shedding off a few pounds are worth the extra effort. It can help prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, strengthen ligaments and joints, and generally make you feel and look better. Personally, I sleep better and wake up with less pain after a day with a good workout in it.
Fitness Through Stretching: Tai Chi and Yoga
If you’re not ready to start a higher impact workout, you can start simple! Yoga can get you moving again.
Because it’s most gentle form is based around balancing poses and simple stretching exercises, it can be great for the relief of aches & pains over 50. In group classes, the instructors are always there for you to simplify or augment a pose.
Tai Chi is another stretching exercise. Its origins are debated, it may have originated 700, 1500, or 3000 years ago depending on sources. It combines slow and sweeping gestures with deep stances. Since it stretches and warms up your muscles gently, you may even feel the benefits of massage.
Listening to Your Body
It’s always important to rest while you are training. The resultant pain can stop you from working out the next day. It is a good idea to listen to your body to prevent injury or chronic conditions.
If you find yourself aching more than usual, you may have overextended a joint or ligament. You may also be suffering from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
Relieving muscle soreness starts right after intense activity. If you’ve just come from the golf course, take the time to ice your elbow before a serious condition like golfer’s elbow sets in.
Use these steps to help. The RICE method. I know I told you to stay away from inflammatory refined carbohydrates, but this one is good!
Massaging the aches & pains away
One of the best things you can do for sore joints is to get a massage. A trained professional at your gym or physical therapist can help, or take it into your own hands with a self-massage tool.
Regular massage helps with those aches & pains at 50 and beyond. While it may not help you reduce body fat or gain muscle tone, your aging body will appreciate the benefits therein.
Regular massage also has benefits for promoting well-being and the easing of stress and anxiety.
Types of Massage for Aging Bodies
If you are lucky enough to go to a spa or medical massage location, you will encounter different types of massages:
One of the relatively newer forms of massage, Swedish massage, was developed in (you guessed it) Sweden. It uses firm, long strokes to stimulate muscles. It is also generally more gentle than other types of massage and has been shown to contribute to wellness over large groups of people.
This is a general body massage, but it can be tailored to your body. Talk to your massage therapist about focusing on the areas that are bothering you.
Hydrotherapy can be used to treat different symptoms. If you are suffering from stress-related spasms or general tightness, you may benefit from heat. Taking a warm bath or sauna before a massage can help to release tension.
If you’re feeling sore because of a workout or a heavy bout of gardening, heat can be used to relieve the thin membrane that covers your muscles. This thin coating experiences micro-tears and knots, which is what causes your muscles to feel stiff after physical fitness.
The word Geriatric is not used generically but as a name for a specific lighter form of massage that is based on the needs of the less able and mobile and that can be anyone.
It helps a weaker body keep or improve the functions associated with well-being. As well as soothing aching joints and arthritic pain it can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation.
We are all different and almost all of us on reaching a number (age) will not consider being geriatric. You may be vacationing with the grandkids and windsurfing at 65. But if you’ve neglected your health and fitness, you might find yourself needing a more gentle approach.
Massage therapists that specialize in aches & pains for the 50s and over are the key to bringing your body back to peak performance.
It’s easy to use your own hands to release some tension in your muscles. Luckily, there are a number of simple self massage tools to make it easier.
For legs, arms, and other long muscles you can try a massaging roller stick. This tool glides along your skin, stretching your stiffened tendons and ligaments.
You should always employ caution when massaging painful areas, especially joints with arthritis or tendonitis. Start with long, broad motions. You don’t want to zero into specific smaller areas without warming up the general body part first.
Type of Massage Machines
There are a number of electronic devices to keep you feeling your best. If your fingers are stiff, you may not be able to massage yourself with your hands. You could use a hand massager to help with tingling and soreness in the knuckle joints.
Backs can be tricky since they’re hard to reach on the best of days. Look for a long-handled vibrator or a percussion gun massager to help you reach your back. These same models are wonderful if you’re feeling off-balance, you can massage your legs without bending over.
These types of massage tools normally have variable controls to affect the intensity of the massage by an increase in amplitude or speed. This is perfect for deep tissue massage when you really want to get deep down most often into the glutes or the upper legs.
Amazingly, my lower back gives me very little trouble even though after a sports accident in my 20s I had problems with it for years after especially when seated for long periods. Eventually, in my early 40s, on seeing my x-ray the doctor announced that 2 of the lower bones in my spine had fused together and looked like the back of a 65 year old.
What does give me discomfort is my upper back and again I feel it’s the nature of modern living where we all tend to sit too much. I like to exercise my back and shoulders as much as possible but there is a limit to the number of movements.
After a workout and a stretch though, I’ll do a nice soothing 10 minutes or so using a neck and shoulder massager. Agh! that’s better.
If your legs or feet are bothering you, there are units available that look like those 1950s moon boots. They use air pressure to fill balloon-like chambers that give your feet an invigorating massage. If you’ve been on your feet all day a relaxing way to end it is with a calf and foot massager.
Release Stress and Finding Your Strength
It’s never too late to make lifestyle changes. By doing a little each day, you can ensure that your days are healthy and pain-free. Fitness exercising, stretching, lifting weights and eating well should improve your quality of life. But working out or any physical activity can come with a price when you get to a certain age. Massages, whether you have an able partner, you visit the spa or do it yourself with massage tools can help bring pain relief. Done regularly, massage can also be relaxing and a way to get rid of mental stresses and strains.
All the best as you war against those aches & pains at 50.