Aging Gracefully: What You Need To Know

“It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old”.   Jules Renard

One of my favorite patients, Arline we’ll call her, can get down onto the floor and back up again in less than a minute. Pretty impressive for 84 years old! One of my favorite paddlers negotiates whitewater rivers in his kayak like he’s a bug on the water, and “Joe” is 83 years old. I’ve seen him compete, often beating racers half his age. And then there’s Bonnie and Bob, well into their seventies, downhill skiing or hiking most days of the week in the mountains of Montana where they live. I joined them and their dog on an 8 day canoe-camp trip a few years ago: 98 miles of the Missouri River,  which included hours-long hikes up cliffs 1800′ and higher.

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Since I personally know all of these nice folks, I can tell you they all follow the 4 BioMarkers of Graceful Aging. They may not know that they do, but they do.

What’s this got to do with back pain relief?

So glad you asked, because staying fit in a general way has everything to do with staying pain-free in your neck or lower back.  It’s absolutely necessary if you want to stay actively and painlessly engaged in your favorite activities, for years to come.  Without further ado, here are the

The 4 BioMarkers of GracefulAging:

  1. Diet:  eat real food, and not a lot of it.
  2. Cardiovascular Health (heart and lungs):  vigorous aerobic activity, 30-40 minutes in a row!, most days of the week.  (see * below).
  3. Strength:  lifting free weights or using machines, 30-40 minutes, twice a week.  (Lifting weights a third time per week has been shown to be of minimal benefit, which is good news!  Twice a week is sufficient!)
  4. Flexibility: the most ignored BioMarker.    Stretching should be done 20-30 minutes most days of the week.  Look for a post soon on all things stretching and flexibility.

Now you don’t have to aspire to rigorous outdoor adventures. But surely, at the very least, you are like Arline above, whose main goal is to remain active and engaged in all of her activities and routines of daily life: gardening, quilting, caring for her home, chasing after grandkids, carrying groceries, clearing snow, and the like.

What are the activities or endeavors you’d like to still be doing 10 and 20 years from now? Try sticking more closely to the above markers.  The benefits will surprise and delight you.

*  The Arthritis Foundation sponsored a study that found arthritis responds best to continued movement.  They have found that taking 6000 steps per day is best.  And 6000 steps per day works out to be 30-40 minutes.


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What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Simply put, physical therapists, or “PT’s”, evaluate body parts that hurt or don’t work right. Whether it’s your shoulder joint that hurts, or lower back pain relief that you need, a good PT can help you. Since I am a spine PT, I will keep my comments back and neck related.

A good PT wants to know what causes back pain. A few of the things we’ll look for can include: muscles that are weak or too short; vertebra that don’t move well with those above and below it; loss of motion; inflammation.

Then, we use time-honored and evidence-based strategies that can provide relief quickly. For example: tissue release techniques similar to massage, spinal joint mobilizations that restore motion and relieve pain, or modalities like ultrasound to reduce swelling and pain.

The trademark of PT’s however, is not so much what we do to you, but rather what we can teach you to do for yourself. We are the exercise experts! and you will almost always be given instructions at the first visit that you can use for immediate relief.

How Do Physical Therapists Differ From Other Providers?

Many people benefit greatly from the services of massage therapists or chiropractors. You should know however, that many of these practitioners are trained to teach you that you will need them regularly, and maybe forever. And in some cases, this may be appropriate care.

Physical therapists, on the other hand, are eager to get you taking good care of yourself, successfully and independently.

Our musculoskeletal systems – our muscles and bones – are remarkably designed to work efficiently and painlessly for a lifetime. If used as directed!  PT’s have read and studied the owners’ manual for you: within a minimum of visits, we can get you back on track. Continue as directed, and you can join the millions of others who have returned to pain-free living.

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