“Don’t get old”. It’s a comment that I hear almost daily as people complain of the aches and pains that seem to accompany ageing.
But it’s a comment that doesn’t just come from people in their senior years. Increasingly, people in their twenties and younger are complaining of “ageing” aches, pains and injuries.
Injuries that were once seen in people older than the age of 50 are now appearing in secondary and sometimes primary school students.
Children as young a 8 have presented with neck pain, upper back pain and / or lower back pain that is often associated with a stooped, froward bent posture pain.
All of these postures are seen in elderly people and are indicators of physical ageing.
These are also postures that are related to excessive tablet, phone and computer use.
You can now understand the tidal-wave of physical problems that is coming with the introduction of these new technologies.
That’s why it is so important to deal the physical effects of ageing. Because the aches and pains that come on for no apparent reason are often lead indicators to more severe “ageing” problems down the track.
Whilst the prospect of getting older may not be inspiring, the beauty of ageing is that it is largely predictable. And if ageing is predictable, then it means that you have an opportunity to influence how you age.
You see, you often hear about the brain being “plastic”. Books such as “The Brain Which Changes Itself”, points to your brain’s ability to adapt and re-wire itself in response to not just your changing reality but your changing perception of reality.
What you don’t so often hear about is that your body is “plastic” too. It would be just as valid to write a book on “The Body Which Changes Itself”.
In other words, as your brain adapts to changes in life, so too does your body. Not only that, but changes in the brain cause changes in the body and vice versa.
If you have ever seen someone who has suffered a head injury, spinal cord injury or even someone who is stressed and anxious and you will see that their body has changed in response to these injuries and even their perceived environment. There is even an association between posture and depression. To read the full article, click here
The reason is that changes in the nerve impulses and hormonal input into body tissues and structures changes the composition of your body tissues and structures.
In fact, every physical, nutritional and even psychological force has an effect on your body. One look at the amazing body transformations that accompany physical, nutritional and psychological training in shows such as "Ninja Warrior" or "Extreme Makeover" and it is immediately evident as to how malleable your body is.
Here in lies your hope. The fact that your body and your health is so pliable to the forces that are applied to it, means that you can use these forces to help you can overcome injury.
The bad news is that ageing is impossible to stop. The good news is that whilst ageing is impossible to stop, the adverse effects of ageing can be minimised and sometimes reversed if you know what they are going to be and what forces you need to apply.
A word of warning though. You must deal with these adverse changes early enough before they become structural and very resistant if not impossible to change.
Why Ageing Occurs
At each moment in your life, your cells are continually dying and replicating themselves. Ageing occurs, because each replication is not exactly perfect. Therefore, over time, minor defects and faults are built into the replicated cell. Ageing is therefore not a disease or a pathology but a natural process. To read more, pleaseclick here.
The Physical Effects of Ageing
It’s easy to see the physical effects of ageing. One just has to observe the elderly people around you.
There are 7 classic and postural changes.
- Head forward posture = Stiff neck joints; Tight/stiff neck extensor muscles and weak/stretched deep neck flexors.
- Rounded upper back = Stiff upper back Joints and weak/stretched upper back extensors.
- Forward movement of the shoulders = Tight/stiff chest muscles; Weak/stretched middle shoulder blade muscles.
- Flat lower back = Stiff lower back joints and weak back extensor muscles.
- Bent hips (in flexion) = Stiff hips, tight/stiff hip bender muscles and weak glute muscles.
- Bent knee (in flexion) – Stiff knee joints, tight/stiff hamstrings and weak/stretched thigh (quadriceps) muscles.
- Flattened (pronated) feet = Stiff ankle joints, tight/stiff calf muscles, weak foot muscles and excessively mobile foot joints.
How to Reverse the Effects of Physical Ageing
To reverse the effects of physical ageing must involve a holistic approach.
Physically, it must mean freeing up the stiff joints of your neck, upper back, shoulders, lower back, hips, knees and ankles.
This is best achieved with hands on joint, muscle, nerve and soft tissue freeing up techniques.
Exercises are simply not specific enough to target individual joints. What tends to happen with exercise, is that the joints which are more mobile will move first whilst other joints that don’t move will get stiffer,thereby perpetuating the problem.
The positive effects of hands on techniques must be reinforced with very precise exercises that both stretch the tight/stiff joints and muscles whilst strengthening weak/stretched muscles.
We know that if you stretch any tissue for 20 minutes that it takes at least 40 minutes for it to return to its pre-stretched characteristics. We also know that you can shorten a muscle by exercising it in a shortened position. What these techniques effectively mean is that you can muscle-bind your body to change its shape and alignment.
The great news is that achieving this outcome doesn’t have to involve multiple exercises. The reason for this, is that if you strengthening one muscle on one side of a joint through full range then you must also be stretching the muscle on the opposite side of that joint.
For example, if you strengthen your deep neck flexor muscles (to reverse the forward head posture), you will decompress and stretch the muscles and joints at the back of you neck.
If you strengthen your upper back and shoulder blade muscles (to straighten your upper back), you will stretch your chest muscles.
If you strengthen your lower back muscles (to normalise the curve in your lower back), you will stretch your upper abdominal muscles and hamstrings.
If you strengthen your glute muscles, you will stretch your hip benders (flexors).
If you strengthen your front thigh muscles (quadriceps) then you will stretch your hamstrings.
The One Exercise that Can Reverse the Adverse Postural Effects of Ageing
I have had the privilege of treating an amazing lady called May. I treated May regularly from the age of 98 to when she passed away at 108. In that 10 years, we were able to achieve the amazing feat of May never having to go to hospital or a nursing home (except for respite or non-physical conditions). For the full story, please click here.
Knowing that it was more difficult for May to move from position to position and that she couldn’t do a lot of different exercises, I devised one exercise that addresses all of the adverse postural changes of physical ageing.
Knowing that May would be lying in bed twice a day (morning and night), her exercise was this. Lying on her back with her feet hip width apart and her arms by her side, she was instructed to tuck her chin in slightly, turn her hands outward as well as turn her feet outward before pulling them back.
Then tightening her buttock muscles and pushing down with her arms and her heels, she slowly lifted her buttocks off the bed to a comfortable height for 5 seconds, held it up for 5 seconds and then lowered for 5 seconds before repeating this movement.
May started with 5 of these movements morning and night and progressed up to 10.
At this point, May progressed the exercise by spread her feet and arms slightly wider apart and returned to doing 5 movements again. She then progressed the number of times that she performed this movement up to 10 again before repeating this procedure.
This is a great exercise because it retracts the neck, straightens the upper back and shoulders, restores the lower back curve, stretches the front of the hips, strengthens the thigh muscles and stretches the calves.
Do this every morning and night and you will notice a difference, guaranteed.
One caution though! Before you begin doing this exercise, it is advisable to be assessed by a physiotherapist here at Bodywise Health to ensure that arching your body will not cause any pain or aggravate any condition. There are pathologies such as Canal Stenosis or Spondylolythesis where arching your back will make your pain worse.
Retarding and / or reversing your physical ageing process can be as easy as doing some easy exercises in bed, morning and night.
If a 108 year old lady can do it, so can you.
Wishing you the best of health and life.
For more information on how Bodywise Health can help you to overcome your pain, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).
- Rebates are available through your private insurance extras cover;
- For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the CDM (Chronic Disease Management) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).
References Available on Request