Whining Won’t Help

By Amy Surdam, FNP

“My back hurts in the morning. Every morning. It gets better after I get moving, but still that nagging pain is there when I wake up.”

15

June, 2017

Life-style
Exercise
Aging

 

My back hurts in the morning. Every morning. It gets better after I get moving, but still that nagging pain is there when I wake up.

A few years ago when this started I was sure I had injured it. After all, I was only 40. Back pain doesn’t really just start when one turns 40, does it?

Then my knees started to hurt.  Not always, but sometimes. Not when I run but afterwards. Sometimes when I have them bent for too long in a car or on a plane, it’s hard to straighten them and I have even more pain.

One day at work I was talking with coworkers and three of the four of us had knee pain. Right knee pain to be exact. We were climbing the stairs talking about our right knee pain like a group of old people and I thought is this really it? Backs and knees just start to hurt when people are over 40?

Certainly that can’t be the case, I thought. Not for me.

In complete denial, I requested further testing. I refused to admit that my pain could be related to “old age” and that I was going to have to live with it. And why live with pain if there is something that could be repaired?

My MRI’s showed severe osteoarthritis in my back and knees. What?!? This is common as people age, but I shouldn’t have severe osteoarthritis at 43. Discovering that I have a condition that is not going to improve was a little shocking. Moreover, I’m a runner and the fear that my running days would be over was devastating.

So I did what I do whenever I have a problem: I Googled it.

Here are some tips that I found that could help control the pain and possibly slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

  1. Participate in moderate, regular exercise

Regular exercise helps strengthen joints and decreases pain. It also increases flexibility and mobility. There are some theories that running can sometimes help osteoarthritis pain, which I have definitely found to be the case.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.

Losing weight will help decrease the pressure and pain on joints such as the knees. Even a few pounds is helpful. I need to remember this the next time I go out to eat! I’m up about 8 pounds for the first time in my life. I’m certain that if I shed even five of that, I bet my knees would feel a little better.

  1. Take anti-inflammatory medications. 

I love me some ibuprofen. I actually can achieve a pain free state when I take 600 mg of Ibuprofen with food. I take it about once or twice a week and I think that’s fine. Taking ibuprofen round the clock could lead to health issues. If you are taking ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories routinely or have issues with your stomach, consider talking with your physician about a prescription of anti-inflammatories that causes less harm to your stomach such as Celebrex.

 

  1. Try to control symptoms with diet. 

Some foods are known to help decrease inflammation, improve joint flexibility, and ease pain. These foods include: bananas, blueberries, salmon, green tea, orange juice, tofu, peanut butter, whole grains and breads, lobster, and pineapple. Put simply: fruits, vegetables, fish, grains, and olive oil…AKA the Mediterranean Diet. Another reason to eat at home and eat healthy.

 

  1. Enjoy life.

I love my orthopedic surgeon. His advice, “life’s short. Run until you can’t run anymore then we’ll fix you.” He’s right. Life is short. Being thankful for what I can still do is important and enjoying it while I can is essential. Whining won’t help!

This morning I ran three miles and I have very little pain today. This fall I am going to run a half marathon. I’ll let you know how it goes!