Falling apart at the seams

Some days, I feel older than I do other days. It’s not the mirror that makes me feel this way, since I mostly avoid mirrors. Instead, it’s the signals my body is sending me. A combination of genetics, childbearing, and martial arts has left me with aches and pains all over. None of them prevent me from doing everything I want to do (especially the martial arts), but all of them make me nervous.

Old man with cane

Both my mom and dad reached old age almost crippled by degenerative bone problems.  Indeed, my dad did that even before old age.  He was almost exactly my age when he had one of the first hip replacement surgeries done in the U.S.  It was a semi-success.  He wasn’t ever confined to a wheelchair, but he was in constant pain for the rest of his life.  Had he lived longer, he would eventually have had to have the hip redone, as well as having his other hip replaced as well.

Old woman in wheelchair

As for my mom, much of her life is defined by her joint and neuro-muscular problems.  She takes medicines to function despite the pain, and then takes more medicines to help her function despite the medicines.

I know that I probably won’t have my parents’ problems.  Unlike them, I’ve never suffered from malnutrition, hard labor, or tropical diseases.  Nevertheless, when my sciatica or my neck problems or my knee problems accelerate, there I am, knocking on the doctor’s door.

physical therapy

As often as not, the doctor can’t do anything for me because there’s not much wrong with me.  The pain is real, so I get physical therapy and anti-inflammatories, but my joints are actually in very good shape.  A little arthritis here, a little spinal compression there, but nothing to write home about.

Interestingly, although there’s little to be done about my chronic pain, I always leave the doctor feeling happier than I was when I went in.  That is, I’m not at all disheartened by the shrug of “We can’t really help you.”  Instead, I’m always relieved that I’m not in as terrible shape as I, the child of my parents, feared I was.  Escape from fear is a tonic in and of itself.

Martial arts

Of course, I’m still at risk because of the martial arts.  So far, I’ve suffered nothing more than some spectacular bruises and ripped off toenails.  Others, though, have sustained all types of sprains and a few breaks.  Interestingly, while there have been, as I said, a few broken bones, most of the injuries at the dojo involve serious soft tissue injury.  One guy ripped all the ligaments in his thumb, requiring meticulous microsurgery from a serious specialist (along these lines).  Another guy separated his pectoral muscle, which had to be stapled back together, although that seemed to be in the purview of a regular orthopedist.

Hand and wrist injury

Still, despite the risks, I don’t stop.  For one thing, I’m having fun and, as extreme skiers and bungee jumpers show, we’re always willing to put ourselves at risk in the name of pleasure.  For another thing, I don’t have any ego tied up in proving myself on the mat.  If something hurts in a way that singles imminent injury, I let my partner know, rather than playing macho and avoiding my body’s message.  Finally, I figure that the certain benefits of bone density and aerobic fitness offset the possibility of a serious injury.

I guess the thing I really have to do is remind myself that, contrary to my neurotic worryings, I am aging gracefully.

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Comments

  1. 11B40 says

    Greetings:
    The last time I went to the doctor, which thankfully was a good while ago, he asked me how I was doing.  In reply, I said, “Well, the good news is that everything seems to be working. The bad news is that nothing seems to be working like it use to.”

  2. Elysse says

    This new year, I also promise myself to stop worrying too much about all my husband’s and my own health issues. But I know it’s going to be difficult. Last year my husband had his first bout with gout and it was extremely painful. It started with his big toe, and now his wrist and fingers are acting up too. His bones are not as strong as before, as little things can injure him already. I also had my health scare when some signs of Parkinson’s disease are showing. My mom and grandmother also had it, so we’re trying everything to prevent it. I’m taking all the supplements I can take, Vit. E, fish oil, vit. C, B complex and CoQ-10. Oh well, I hope that the year 2013 will be kinder to us. It’s also my resolution to find specialists for us. Happy new year!

  3. says

    Elysse,

    I’m beginning to realize an inexorable truth — the aging process is inevitable.  We can’t stop it, although we can slow it down.  The best thing we can do is come up with a philosophy that makes aging acceptable, rather than horrible.

    If you come up with such a philosophy, please let me know, because mine is still a work in progress.  ;)

  4. says

     
    Elysse, I recommend having him attend Taiji Chuan classes for health benefits. Whether in the modern or ancient sense, it is a fountain of youth.
     
    In slightly less modern cultures, age was synonymous with strength, wisdom, and authority. Thus the older generation had a responsibility and duty to look out for the younger generation, since they will be replaced by them sooner or later.

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