This article was written by a guest contributor. For guest contribution guidelines please visit this page. Leah Concord enjoys sharing insights that have been learned over the years with others.
Living with pain isn’t easy. And unfortunately, aches and pains seem to become more prevalent as we get older. Some are serious and require medical attention, but most are mild and can be easily tended to at home.
Alas, the abundance of opioids and other painkillers has led to gross misuse of prescription medication for pain management. While they can be helpful in controlled cases, they’re not ideal for long-term use as they’re highly addictive and can lead to a host of other complications. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor before adjusting medications or changing your lifestyle, but in the meantime, here are a few natural ways to treat and perhaps even prevent most aging-related aches and pains.
Ways to Combat Neck and Shoulder Pain
Pain in the neck and shoulders is a common complaint among aging individuals. Years of holding tension in the shoulders, decades of looking down at a desk, plus countless piggyback rides have done their damage, and now it’s time to address the pain.
Depending on the severity of your pain, heat and a gentle massage may be enough to ease the tension. Certain yoga positions like the bow pose can help alleviate pain in the upper back by stretching the chest muscles. There are even certain pillows you can buy that are specifically designed to alleviate neck pain as you sleep.
Your posture is often responsible for the health of your neck and shoulders, and slouching only makes the pain worse. Using a supportive, ergonomic chair can improve your posture at work. You can also purchase a brace to help train your body to operate with pristine posture. If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous way to stand taller, you could try taking ballroom dance lessons to improve your posture while also squeezing in a great workout!
How to Handle Lower Back Pain
Over time, degeneration in our lumbar spine often leads to lower back pain. Sometimes this requires surgical intervention, but if you can catch it early and make a few changes to your daily routine, you can prevent it from getting too bad.
First and foremost, strengthen your core as much as possible. When your core is strong, it takes the pressure off of your back, preventing further spinal damage. Plus, you are more likely to move ergonomically with a strong core, reducing your risk of activity-related injury.
When dealing with a bout of lower back pain, consider icing the area and laying down with your legs elevated.
If you have easy access to a pool, floating in water is a favorite among lower back pain sufferers. The water creates a feeling of weightlessness, taking the pressure off of the lower back. If you’ve been suffering from lower back pain, this sensation can be euphoric.
Stop (and Prevent) Joint Pain and Arthritis
Joint pain tends to creep up on us as we age, and it can interfere with our favorite activities. Simply put, arthritis is pain caused by inflammation in the joints. Fortunately, there are natural ways to stave off arthritis and perhaps even prevent it in the first place.
Staying active is important, as inflammation thrives in sedentary joints. Walking, swimming, yoga and other low-impact exercises are great ways to keep joint pain at bay. Steer clear of high-impact workouts, especially if you’re already feeling pain in your joints.
Second, consider following an anti-inflammatory diet. Some foods cause inflammation, and others actually fight it. Consult your doctor before changing your diet, but for the most part, you’ll want to avoid foods like processed meats, dairy, sugar, gluten and fried foods.
How to Treat Foot Pain
If years of walking in unsupportive shoes have left you with aching feet, you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. This painful ailment can make walking incredibly painful because the tendons and ligaments in the arch of your foot are tightened and inflamed.
While it may be painful, try rolling out your feet with a tennis ball, or if you can stand it, something more firm like a golf or lacrosse ball. Splurging on a foot massage can be a nice treat as well. Stretching your arch, Achilles tendon and calf can improve symptoms by gently exercising these tight ligaments. Lastly, there are braces you can buy that will keep your foot in a flexed position while you sleep, but consult your doctor before doing so.
The most effective way to ensure plantar fasciitis pain stays at bay is to wear supportive shoes with ample arch support. Footwear such as flip flops and high heels may be stylish, but they can be detrimental to your foot health.
Managing Carpal Tunnel and Tennis Elbow
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is pretty similar to carpal tunnel syndrome; the main difference is the location of the pain. These annoyances can hinder you from enjoying your favorite activities or even doing your work.
Ice is a common treatment for these ailments, but only in short applications. If you’re experiencing a flare-up, ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes, then be sure to move or massage the area to get the blood moving once again. On the other hand, if you’re outside in cold weather, keep the affected area warm, as prolonged exposure to the cold can exacerbate symptoms.
Compression is a tried and true way to treat both carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. Choose the amount of compression carefully, as too much can restrict blood flow and make matters worse. Consult your doctor, and they’ll help you find the ideal amount of compression for you.
Get Rid of a Headache
Headaches can be a confusing ailment. They can be brought on, it seems, by just about anything. Dehydration, changes in the menstrual cycle, exposure to too much (or not enough) light, muscle tension, food sensitivities, even changes in the weather can trigger a headache. Clearly, it’s not always easy to decipher the cause of the ache, so treating it can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark.
Most often, laying down in a dark room can alleviate symptoms. Laying a small pillow filled with rice over your eyes can be helpful, too, especially if your headache was brought on by too much time in front of the computer.
If your headache is more tension-related, heat on the back of the neck may help. Some people turn to their olfactory system for assistance, using a menthol cream or peppermint essential oils to ease their symptoms.
No matter the cause of your headache, a good habit to get into is drinking a full glass of water at the onset of symptoms. Dehydration worsens the severity of any ache or pain, so even if you’re dealing with a food sensitivity-related headache, rehydrating your body may help take the edge off.
As we age, aches and pains become unavoidable, but they do not have to take over our lives. Staying active, consuming a healthy diet and staying hydrated are our most powerful weapons against aging-related aches and pains. If your pain persists or worsens, your doctor will be able to assess whether it’s time to take your pain management to the next level. However, keep symptoms at bay as long as you can by simply living a healthy lifestyle. Your body will thank you!
You might also be interested in: The 13 Best Exercises for Seniors [Stay Active, Stay Healthy]