It Sucks Getting Old.. But Is That Pain You’re Feeling Something Else?
As someone who’s nearly 30, I have to say that working out now is much different for me than it was in my teens and early twenties. I could do just about anything in a workout, have no warm-up or mobility work, and feel just fine afterwards. It was not until the past couple of years that I began to feel pain. My knees would hurt in the morning walking down the stairs at my apartment complex, my lower back would bother me after a heavy deadlift workout, I developed somewhat debilitating Achilles overuse injuries in both feet, which made walking from my bed to the kitchen a painful feat, and I had impingement in my left shoulder that prevented me from lifting overhead and made simple actions like pouring coffee painful. Okay, I am done whining, and I promise I tell you all of this to make a point.
Throughout my years of training, I have noticed a consistency in fitness culture. Plenty of people have experienced or currently experience pain like me and it is explained with an emphatic “It SUCKS getting old!” Now, I know that this is said in a semi-joking manner, but I feel there is some true feeling behind the statement. It’s the feeling that we used to be able to do so much more in the past without feeling pain, and now that we are “old,” all the same shit hurts. Could it be that simple? You have a window of time where you can do whatever you want without experiencing pain and once you pass a certain age it all goes downhill? Welcome adulthood! The land of decreased performance and joint aches, please grab your icy hot, Tylenol, and back brace…
Body Aches and Pains Could Be a Lot More Than Just “Getting Older.”
Perhaps there is something to be said about getting older and how our bodies do change with age. Although, as someone that specializes in human movement and correcting dysfunction, I cannot let that be the only factor we consider when it comes to why our joints suddenly hurt.
Our body is a complex system of joints, muscles, and nerves. All of which must work together to result in efficient movement that places minimal stress on our joints and tissues. If we have altered positioning in one of our joints, it changes the way the muscles at that joint function. Some muscles may be held in a lengthened position and others in a shortened position, compared to their ideal resting length. Think of how it feels to finally stand after sitting in a car for a long time. Why is it that our muscles feel tight? This is the result of our bodies adapting to the different muscle lengths in a seated posture. In this same way, we develop or reinforce altered joint positions from other resting postures, repetitive dysfunctional movement in workouts, or injury. These three factors work in a cyclical manner. For example, someone that repetitively bench presses with dysfunctional movement, can develop muscle imbalances at the shoulder, resulting in poor resting posture throughout the day, which results in injury. This is just as likely as someone developing muscle imbalances from sitting slouched all day, which leads to dysfunctional movements in their workouts, which then leads to injury. There are multiple ways to fall into this cycle, and young kids are at no less of a risk than older adults for developing poor movement patterns. Meaning, it is not just an old person thing!
So, maybe the person with knee pain does not just have old knees, they have muscle imbalances in both hips because they walk, run, and exercise without knowing their feet flatten, so their knees cave, and their hips internally rotate. After 5 years of crushing the local 5k their body has had enough and sends pain signals to stop. Or the person with a “bum” shoulder in CrossFit simply has imbalanced muscles surrounding the joint from pitching in high school and now they are trying to set personal records on their clean and jerk 10 years later without first correcting their movement impairment and building overhead stability. We may write this off as us getting old, but it may be the result of movement imbalances that have gone unnoticed for years.
Strive Physical Therapy Can Help You Move Better and Pain-Free
I do not think getting old sucks. I do think that our bodies will only put up with poor movement patterns for so long before telling us to stop. All this to say there is hope for us “old people.” If you feel like you fall into the category of having bad knees or a bad lower back, etc, there is likely an answer for you in the way your joints move together as a system. Become curious about your movement, habits, and postures; invest time in improving your movement quality, and you may find your fountain of youth.If you are interested in getting a functional movement screen and improving your movement patterns, please reach out to us at Strive PT and we will get you started on your journey to moving better and pain-free.
Meet Caleb Greig, Personal Trainer – Strive Physical Therapy
Caleb has been working in the fitness industry for over 5 years. In 2015, he graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Exercise Science and shortly after got certified as a Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, with a specialty in Exercise Physiology