It's important to realize as you age, the nagging aches and pains that arrive within and on your old bones and tissue can for the most part be managed.
This summer at a concert I had to run nearly a hundred yards wearing large logging boots. Reaching my destination I knew immediately from pain I felt in my right knee that I'd somehow hurt it. It was obvious the injury wasn't from any sort of contact, so I wasn't sure what might have caused the injury, nor was I sure what the injury was.
Pain will sometimes leave as quickly as it arrived, but that wasn't the case with my new knee pain, it got worse as the day went on. The first night with the new pain was such a pain I didn't sleep well. In the morning, any hope of overnight recovery was stolen away by minor swelling and a good bit of stiffness in my knee.
This knee pain felt different than any I'd previously had, and I wasn't totally sure this injury would heal without having to undergo some sort of surgical procedure, so I made an appointment with my trusty physical therapist.
Main point to folks over age 40: by recommendation or cold calling, find a very good physical therapist. I've had one for about 10 years who has worked plenty a cranky aging pain away, while at the same time talking me through why and how it occurred, and what I could do to make it stay away.
My P.T. knew, after a few tugs on my knee, that I wasn't going to need surgery to fix it. I swear, once I knew the problem with my knee was a bruise, not a tear, a load lifted from my mind, and 40 percent of the pain went away. The years I'd gone to my P.T. had given my confidence in his judgment, that's why it's important to establish a relationship with a therapist you can trust as soon as you can, you old creaky cusses.
My P.T. said if the pain wasn't mostly gone within a week I should come back and he'd do some therapy. But he said he expected it would heal on it's own. He didn't bother telling me to take it easy for a few days, or to start doing specific exercises to strengthen the small muscles in and around my knee, because he knew I knew the drill, which was rest and exercise concentrated around the knee would both help it heal, and keep it strong and bolstered from it happening again.
By the way, the problem was a bruised meniscus (meniscus is knee cartilage that stabilizes; it acts as a spacer and shock absorbs the area in and around the knee; it also helps with the marriage of the tibia and femur), caused by trauma to the knee bones and joint from running in my large boots, the hard soles not allowing for any type of cushion whatsoever. Made sense to me.
The knee pain did decrease, but not as quickly as I'd hoped. I pushed it less when I exercised, totally stopped hiking for a month, and I added some strengthening exercises that address the weak area, and now, though it's almost a full three months since the injury, I'm pain free and back to about 95 percent strength.
If I were age 28, and stayed off it totally, the knee would have healed completely in half the time, but that's fine, with age comes patience and knowledge, which is why last week when I tweaked my inner shoulder, I added to my daily errands a ten-minute routine, which concentrates on all the small muscles deep in the shoulder that aren't always strong and pliable for lack of use. My shoulder responded right away, the pain was gone in three days.
We're lucky to live in a time where there are folks who've spent a lot of years and money studying how bodies respond to proper care. I have to assume when prickly injuries brought on aches and pains to people in past generations, they simply grinned and bared it and just plodded through.
Here's an alert to everyone, even you little kids, who will some day have a case of backpack back: Please take care of your smallish, pains in the arms and knees and neck, and back and feet and so on and so forth as your life progresses, because if you don't, you'll probably end up taking pills for the pain, and that's not the best case.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com