Men and women’s bodies are more prone to aching and creaking as they age. And it’s not just in their heads, according to Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth of NYC Surgical Associates. Depleted cartilage, and the legitimate pain that follows, is largely to blame. If anything, “people become less sensitive to pain with age,” Hollingsworth told Fatherly. “We get much more pain as we get older and most of us get better at ignoring it as a result.”
A lot of the aches, pains, and creakiness is due to osteoarthritis (OA), the most common chronic joint condition in the U.S., affecting more than 30 million people. It differs from other forms of arthritis, in that it gets worse over time. As a result of the degeneration of cartilage between bones, OA cause in pain, aching, stiffness, swelling, and a decreased range of motion in the neck, lower back, hips, knees, hands and fingertips. Although it’s often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, it’s more complicated than that. “Damage to articular cartilage in the joint from an impact also causes inflammation which leads to further tissue damage to bone and cartilage,” Hollingsworth says.
Although most people over the age of 60 have OA in some form, it can come on much earlier depending on how much physical activity they endure from an early age. For someone who’s played sports for most of their lives, they can start to feel these aches and pains as early at their late teens and early twenties. Kids are particularly resilient to this wear and tear, because they have more cartilage in their bones and their joints are more flexible. “Both of these contribute to kids being more flexible and resilient to impacts,” Hollingsworth explains.
Who knew the fountain of youth would be so rubbery?
Older adults can prevent the degeneration of cartilage by maintaining a healthy weight, and consistent sleep schedules. Hollingsworth recommends consulting with a doctor about any prolonged joint pain, as they are a number of nonsurgical options for treating these aches and pains, and he cautions against narcotic pain medications, which can be highly addictive and less effective for relieving pain. But even adults in ship-shape need to remember that, as they age, their limitations will change. You simply cannot move like you once could, without paying the price. “We do get tired a lot faster though,” Hollingsworth says.
“A long day of beating on our bodies, moving around, can wear you down a lot faster the older you get.”