Man in sweater holding his neck in aching pain.

“These findings suggest that any self-reported knee pain in osteoarthritis, as opposed to hand pain, seems to be a crucial factor leading to early cardiovascular mortality and is likely to be linked with decreased mobility,…”

This is the conclusion of a study involving middle age women over a period of 22 years…

First, let me confess at the outset that at this point in my sixties, joint pain and stiffness are virtually nonexistent for me. For this fact, I am grateful. The biggest issue is the joint of my big toe — it can be extremely sensitive and jolt me with shooting pains if abused. Those of you who know what burpees are will be able to understand that I have to gently get into the push-up position as opposed to hitting the deck in a hurry. So working out and training in Senior years involves various techniques of accommodation, which in itself is a topic to address at another time — but its main component is adaptability.

I share these seemingly minor details with you to let you know that I am in no way capable of understanding all the issues surrounding the debilitating pain and discouragement that are a part of living with severe arthritis. So that when I discuss below the critical need for movement and mobility exercises, do not think that I underestimate the degree of difficulty on the part of those of you who are afflicted. But in spite of your difficulties, any movement you can accomplish to improve over time must be attempted to the best of the abilities that you have, or those abilities, as well, will continue to diminish.

‘Use It Or Lose It’ is true regardless of your level of fitness; regardless of how you feel.

Even in the severest cases of rheumatoid arthritis, movement and exercise — however modest and limited they may be — are recommended! The resulting lack of mobility experienced by the study participants noted above, was, most likely, the prime factor in their decline of overall health. Eventually, the lack of cardiovascular exercise takes its toll, frequently, in the sudden and catastrophic form of cardiac arrest–a bit too late, by this time, to make good on intentions to start effective exercise solutions. And the imperceptible changes taking place in the structure of your bones due to neglect doesn’t hit home until the doctor describes your skeleton as “brittle.” This can be a devastating word when you contemplate its implications.

Starting on the road to pain relieving medications is always a complicated journey.

I’ve shared my experience of being hospitalized from the effects of NSAIDS. Every chemical that you put in the body — even simple over-the-counter medications — changes the body chemistry. Sometimes, especially with continued use, there are unintended results that are not recognized until years later. You can only make the best choices for yourself by trying to learn and understand these consequences. Undoubtedly, you will need to make these choices regarding your well being that always have the tradeoff issues of potential benefits vs side effects. Do not ignore this dynamic. If it’s recommended that you need a CT scan, for instance, you’re trading off your body’s exposure to harmful radiation — sometimes hundreds of times the exposure of an X-ray — for the information gleaned from the greater detail revealed in the CT scan. Is that tradeoff worth it? Don’t surrender the analysis to your doctor. Healthcare is a business and the CT scanners generate income — that’s life (and death)! (See this from Consumer Reports.)

Individual differences regarding the perception of pain and the functional solutions available vary enormously.

I say this to highlight the fact that the answers to the complications of aging are going to be different for everyone. Pain is an intense and personal experience that will drive us each to our own individual coping techniques. Indeed, there is no doubt that movement, however you accomplish it, is much more than mobility… it is life itself!

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About The Author

Steven Siemons ACSM CPT's picture

As a lifelong fitness enthusiast and armchair philosopher (BA in Social Science, UC Irvine), Steven communicates his passion for health and wellness with an offbeat slant. It's a lifestyle, he will insist; and fitness is really a journey to find what fits--for you. His personal fitness journey has primarily centered on resistance training for more than fifty years. An intense three-year exposure to Shotokan Karate under Sensei Ray Dalke and Sensei Edmond Otis in Southern California during his thirties (he is now 65, since you're wondering) had a significant impact on his appreciation for the martial arts as fitness disciplines. It is his sincere hope that you will find insight, inspiration, and knowledge from the ideas he sends your way. Find more of his work at The Senior Health and Fitness Blog.

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