One thing that no one can escape throughout their lifetime is age. Many things come along with age. You become wiser and more successful and after a long lifetime of hard work, retirement is your reward. We are an active group when it comes to aging and unfortunately you have to take the good with the bad. Aches and pains are just a part of aging, but luckily there are things you can do to help better your situation. Orthopedic and spine-care centers are across the Corridor and can help you with your joint and back pain to enable you to live a more relaxed lifestyle.
Knowing Your Pain
There isn’t a specific age that joint and back pain begin to appear. It’s not in a brochure that tells you when you celebrate your 60th birthday, you will get arthritis. Joint and back pain depend on a variety of issues that doctors begin to see and hear about as early as a patient’s 40s. Pain can be attributed to genetics, diabetes, diseases and your activity level.
Charles Toulson, M.D., medical director of The Total Joint Replacement Center at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano helps designate some timetables in regards to joint and back pain. “You’ll start to see some changes beginning in your 40s,” Toulson says. “It’s just not as easy to do some of the activities you used to do. In your 50s you’ll start to see that it takes longer to recover after being active and there is an increase in joint pain. The 60s and older are where joint pain is most prevalent.”
Some pain is more common than others. While every individual is different, activities we participate in tend to show common trends. For example, many people sit at a computer all day or people may enjoy a round of golf. Because there are trends of pain, you can find information about how to better your situation even without surgery.
Back pain tends to be a common condition. In fact, it is one of the most frequent problems R. “Jamie” Spicer, M.D. at Tarpon, P.A. sees. Spicer indicates that some of the most common problems seen are, “facet joint arthropathy causing axial low back pain or causing contact to an adjacent nerve root causing low back pain and lower extremity pain.”
Understanding your pain is a major part of dealing with your pain. Dr. Ralph Rashbaum, Co-Founder of the Texas Back Institute and Surgeon at Texas Health Center & Diagnostics for Surgery says that the first question patients have when they have pain is in regard to fear of what they do not know. “Common questions are ‘is this normal doctor?’” explains Dr. Rashbaum. “At Texas Health we try to tend to their fears. We tell them it is a normal occurrence with aging and then we go about treating their complaints.”
Dealing With Your Pain
Just because you are in pain does not mean that you require surgery. Arthritis is the result of the body trying to correct abnormal movements, so it is important that you correct what is causing you pain.
Dr. Rashbaum stresses that just because you can elect to have surgery, doesn’t mean that you should. “If a doctor or surgeon tells a patient they have to have surgery, that patient is being led astray,” Rashbaum says. “It is important to always get a second opinion. In some cases surgery is required, but a second opinion never hurts. In fact, 95 percent of elective spine surgery is because my back hurts. Only 5 percent qualify for the ‘need’ because they have something other than the degenerative process that occurs with age.”
You can manage your pain with good habits. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help your situation and alleviate pain.
As Dr. Toulson explains, “Staying at a healthy weight and staying active will definitely help prevent joint pain. Make sure you’re using good form when being active or doing things around the house and understand that you might have to do things a little smarter as you age instead of just trying to muscle through things like you did when you were in your 30s.”
Unfortunately not all situations are corrected by changes in your everyday life. In some cases, degenerative changes can result in more serious conditions.
Dr. Spicer explains, “Aging spine problems that may be addressed ultimately by surgery are conditions with degenerative changes causing neural compromise (e.g. spinal stenosis, radiculopathy, unstable or stable spondylolisthesis, facet cyst, isolated discogenic pain, degenerative scoliosis, etc) that are not responsive to interventional spine treatments along with a core strengthening program.”
Back and spine pain are no laughing matter. Your nerves travel through your spine before traveling to your brain and when problems in the spine occur, they are very noticeable.
Candace Callegan, RN and Joint and Spine Surgery Program Coordinator and Patti Griffith, MS, RN and Director of Nursing at Methodist Hospital for Surgery see the main problems that cause patients to have surgery. “Common problems repaired by surgery include joint replacements, spinal cord compression, compression fractures, spinal instability, and pinched nerves,” they explain.
Once you have had surgery or are recovering from a condition, it is important to not exert yourself excessively and cause the pain to reoccur. Some conditions require rest for your joints, which could be for a few days or weeks depending on the condition.
“Just as every individual is unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all outcome,” say Callegan and Griffith. “One variable to consider is the procedure involved and what kind of physical shape the patient was in before and after surgery. Another variable could be the severity of the problems prior to surgery. We find that patients who are educated on the procedure and the need for physical therapy after surgery generally recover better as they understand the importance of following the prescribed regime. For this reason, Methodist Hospital for Surgery offers pre-operative joint replacement education classes and will soon also offer pre-operative spine education classes as well.”
Overall joint and back pain are part of the aging process. Every individual is different and some may see it much sooner than others. The good news is there are physicians and surgeons throughout the Corridor who can answer every one of your questions regarding your pain. Don’t let your pain cause you to not be as active as you want to be. There’s still a lot of living to do.
-By Sam Nicholson