Aging is inevitable, but the pain that most people associate with getting older is not. You can’t totally eliminate pain, but it isn’t too late to take some preemptive measures and live the rest of your life relatively pain-free, according to an article in the March issue of UCLA Medical Center’s Healthy Years.
“Your approach to making changes should be gradual,” says Ziya Altug, MS, PT, a UCLA physical therapist and author of The Anti-Aging Fitness Prescription. “A lifetime of habits isn’t going to be erased in one day.” Here is a four-step plan to age without aches.Less Weight/Less Pain. When older adults complain about pain, their discomfort generally starts with weight-bearing joints, particularly the knees. The knees are placed under tremendous stress with every step, but you can reduce that load one pound at a time. Researchers reporting in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism found that for every pound of weight lost there is a four-pound reduction in the load placed on the knee joint with each step. The accumulated reduction in knee load for a one-pound loss in weight would be more than 4,800 pounds per mile walked. Lose 10 pounds and your knees would be subjected to 48,000 less pounds of pressure per mile. Less pressure, less knee pain.There are three ways to lose weight. One is to eat less; the second is to exercise more; the third is to do both. The “One-Pound-a-Week” strategy and the “Perfect Triangle Exercise Prescription” can help you achieve your goal.One Pound a Week. If you are overweight or obese, you might be overwhelmed by the big picture demands of weight loss. Here’s an idea: don’t look at the big picture. Follow Altug’s suggestion and take a gradual approach to weight loss. One pound of weight equals approximately 3,500 calories. Take in 3,500 calories more than you expend over a period of time and you will gain a pound. Consume 3,500 fewer calories than you burn to lose that pound.Break that 3,500 number into smaller pieces. If you can reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories a day, and, at the same time, expend 250 more calories than usual, the net result is 500 calories a day. Multiply that 500 by seven days and you’ll reach the net 3,500-calorie reduction/burn goal for losing one pound of weight.The Perfect Triangle. You may be able to compensate for some joint damage and pain through Altug’s “Perfect Triangle” prescription. “We recommend a three-sided approach to your anti-pain prescription,” he says. “By including strength, aerobic, and stretching activities in as little as 30 minutes a day, you can be on your way. Preserve your muscle mass by challenging them against a resistance determined by your fitness level. Use your own body weight (modified pushups), an elastic band, dumbbells, or machines three times a week to reach your goals.”Walking, biking, swimming, dancing, and low impact sports can benefit your heart, lungs, and muscles. Stronger muscles support weakened joints and can reduce or eliminate the pain.Stretching exercises (arm raises, side bends, wall squats, calf raises, sitting knees-to-chest, and those included in Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi) will improve your flexibility and range of motion, both of which may lessen pain.Chondroitin and Glucosamine. Chondroitin and glucosamine, found naturally in and around cartilage cells, may be helpful in people with moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis. Taking 1,500 mg daily of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin was proven effective in a government-sponsored study published in 2006. The supplements don’t work for everyone, and it will take at least a month for you to determine if they are going to be effective.These anti-pain approaches, in addition to over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, are proven and inexpensive. More aggressive strategies prescription drugs and surgery, for example should not be used until your doctor has determined that you need something more than weight loss, exercise, or supplements. There is no reason to accept the pain associated with aging. You can be relatively pain-free if you aggressively implement a pain prevention and control program.WHAT YOU CAN DOLose one pound a week by taking in 250 calories less and expending an extra 250 calories per day.Include strength, aerobic, and stretching activities in your exercise program.Ask your doctor if it’s okay to try glucosamine/chondroitin supplements.(Source: UCLA Medical Center’s Healthy Years : UCLA : March 2007.)