A few weeks ago I turned Forty. The day before my birthday, I was treating a 13-year-old boy and I told him I was turning Forty. “Forty!” he said. “You don’t look Forty.” I smiled to myself as I thought, “Well, Neil, not bad for your age, you do have a bit of a baby face.”
“Nah,” he continued, “you look heaps older than that!” That really got me smiling. And then when I looked over at his Mum to see her giggling behind her hands in embarrassment, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing also.
I’ve never been one to hide my age or to think about what it means to have another birthday. To me, my age is just a number. Hopefully, the bigger the number, the more I have learnt. A bigger number doesn’t have to mean more pain, and less ability to do the things that I love. I see this time and time again with my patients. I regularly treat Seventy year-olds who play tennis 3 times a week, Eighty year-olds who swim every day and even Ninety year-olds who still do gym workouts!
So, as I went to bed the night before my birthday I thought to myself: “Forty, hey? Well, they reckon all the aches start after Forty. Still, never mind, it’s only another number.” Well, I kid you not, at 4am on the day of my birthday I woke up with all sorts of aches and pains – my neck ached, my hands were sore and my shoulder blades were stiff and tight! I did everything I always tell my patients to do. I worked on my posture, I heated my neck regularly, I did my exercises and I got the regular physiotherapy treatment.
All that helped. It helped a lot. But, I was still waking up with a sore neck. So, I stopped chopping firewood and I stopped jumping on the trampoline with the kids. That helped too, but I was still sore in the mornings. “Wow,” I thought, “maybe Forty isn’t JUST another number. Maybe, this is it. Maybe I need to just start putting up with my aches and pains now that I am over Forty.”
This was hard for me to take. I have always advocated to my patients that getting older doesn’t have to mean that they have to live with pain. I had truly believed that, no matter their age, if they get regular physiotherapy treatment, do the correct exercise and keep themselves generally moving well, most of my patients can be relatively pain free. And, over the years, I have had thousands of patients who have taught me that this is true.
And yet, here I was, in pain and discomfort for the past 2 weeks since turning Forty. “I don’t know,” I said to Bec, “since turning Forty, I’ve been achy and sore. I don’t know why.” “Hey,” she said, “I’ve been sore since your birthday as well. I wonder what’s going on?”
It turns out that we had somehow switched our pillows over. I had her pillow, which was too small for me and she had my pillow, which was too big for her! We switched them back and now I am back to being pain free again.
So, it turns out I was correct: Forty IS just a number. The same as Fifty or Sixty, or even Eighty. Don’t accept pain as a natural consequence of ageing. Find out what’s causing the pain and change that. Maybe, like me, a simple change and the correct treatment can make a huge difference.