Oh, my aching body….

It’s a rare day that some aspect of my aching  — and aging — body fails to greet me every morning. This is especially true at this time of year when I’m busy with spring gardening chores.

Why do these seemingly inexplicable aches appear? Sometimes it’s a sore knee; on other days, it’s an aching back; occasionally, there is a spasm in an elbow or shoulder. What happened to free and effortless movements after a good night of sleep?

woman in white tank top and blue denim shorts sitting on bed
Oh, my aching body — photo by Susan Bughdaryn courtesy of instant images

It’s normal to experience some aches and pains with aging.  My body is reacting to normal wear and tear.

I know there’s nothing unusual about stiff muscles and joints after some heavy garden work.

An occasional spasm in one of my artificial hip joints doesn’t surprise me. I also know that muscles, ligaments and tendons tighten up and change as the years accumulate.

Based on studies showing that the average adult walks 1,182 miles every year, I’ve likely walked 92,787 miles in my 78.5 years of life! At this mileage, most vehicles are ready for a trade-in.

I’ve also experienced pregnancy, occasional weight fluctuations (losses and weight gains of 5 to 10 pounds), various surgeries, times of uber-fitness regimes, and a myriad of bumps, bruises, and strains.

Unfortunately, I can’t trade in my body like a car so I  adapt. I’m determined that my aging body does not mean a constantly aching body.

Patience with Aches and Pain

Although any pain eats at my patience, I acknowledge and recognize that some body aches result from the true experience of aging. Joints and muscles become stiffer and less flexible with age or over-use. Patience is required!

Osteoarthritis caused me to have both hips replaced and has progressed to affect the joints in my hands. Gentle massage and application of heat usually help but I do worry when the joint on the ring finger of my left hand is swollen to the point where it becomes difficult to remove my wedding ring that has fit perfectly for 57 years!

As well, stress can result in physical manifestations.  Muscles tense up and begin aching especially in the neck, shoulders and spine.  Due to my husband’s medical issues, I carry caregiving responsibilities for meals, transportation, routine household chores, and related tasks to keep both of us safe and healthy.

Dealing with Aches and Pain

I strongly believe that one does not have to accept living with pain as part of old age unless dealing with a chronic disease.

Some daily discomforts are tolerable especially when most aches and pains disappear with movement or stretching. An occasional Tylenol or some Voltaren also helps.

It’s common to experience more body aches when feeling tired. Taking a rest and drinking water usually helps me. Occasionally, a nap is required.

To deal with stress I practise various coping mechanisms including relaxation and time management. Keeping a manageable daily schedule of one or two events each day can be difficult, even in retirement.  A three-event day is one event too many!

Movement helps as it’s essential for maintaining muscle mass and flexibility. Regardless of discomfort, I keep moving with a brisk walk whenever the weather is conducive, a few yoga stretches, and hand weights to keep muscle strength.

Diet and nutrition are important regardless of age.  Food maintains the body. Buying foods high in anti-oxidants — including a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs and dairy products — is a better use of money than paying for supplements that can never replace real food.

Finally, my aching body reminds me of one of my husband’s friends, who we knew as Miss Minnie.  Miss Minnie was a wonderful and wise older lady from Mississippi who loved road trips to Canada in her lavender Cadillac to visit us.  She used to hold an aching shoulder or knee and laughingly say “Old age is a bitch — and then we die”.  Thanks for your humour, Miss Minnie, but I’ll take old age.



4 Replies to “Oh, my aching body….”

  1. Robin Lelievre says: Reply

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jeanette. Some days, I look for reasons for my aching joints and muscles such as the hundreds of Bearskin trips, hauling books and training manuals to the far reaches of Ontario, or being the helper when my ex husband and I hand-built three large homes, or giving birth and raising two wonderful children, then grandparenting 5 beautiful grandchildren and all the lifting and playing that went with our visits. Then I realize that the rewards of all these events and many others that took a toll on my body make up the wonderful life I have lived. Thanks for normalizing my experience and reminding me to reframe my thinking. Your writing is truly inspirational.

    1. Oh my goodness, Robin! Your body holds the secrets of a life well-lived! You should take pride in all you have accomplished. A few aches and pains are well worth a beautiful life journey!

  2. I can relate to this post! I agree with your sentiment that old age is better than the alternative! I deal with arthritis, so my daily routines work to make me feel as good as I can. You have a lot on your shoulders, so the fact that you work to manage it all and take care of yourself is imperative. We can’t do anything if we are not in good shape ourselves. Your post reminds me of another “old-age” quote my mom would often repeat. (She lived 6 days shy of 100!) She said, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

    1. I fully agree with your late mother’s comment. After spending too many years during my career wearing stilettos and other shoes that hurt my feet, I pay the price. My feet need birkenstocks or mephistos or running shoes to walk any distance. When I see younger women wearimg impossible shoes, I’m tempted to stop them with a warning of what may happen in later years. Take good care of your arthritis and keep going!

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