Aches and pains abound -- especially as we top 40 and become "middle-aged". But the key is knowing the difference between what you can treat yourself -- and how you can treat it -- and what needs a doctor's attention.
You crawl out of bed in the morning, and there it is: pain. For
some of us, it's a hot needling in the knee. For others, it's a creaky, aching
back, complete with knotted neck muscles; or it's the tender hip joint that
feels like you somehow got sand in it overnight.
Do some of these need medical attention? Maybe, but some of
them are everyday, run-of-the-mill aches and pains that we can treat at home.
But how do you tell the difference?
Madonna and Michelle Obama seem to have little in common. But together, they have awakened American women of a certain age to the allure of tight, toned arms. They've sent the message that those arms and toned, taut bodies may be within reach for other 40-somethings and older.
That message has been helped along by a legion of other celebrities who have passed their 40th birthday, yet remain virtually flab-free. The list includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin, and Mary Tyler Moore.
It may offer some relief to know that even for medical
professionals it's not always immediately apparent which injury needs treatment
and which needs a couple of ibuprofen, some light compression, and an ice
Serious or Minor Injury?
"Pain itself is a good indication of the difference between
injury that needs attention and injury that will resolve itself with some
self-care," says Andrew Cannon, a sports trainer and physical therapist at
Andover College in
Andover, Mass. "Injury that significantly impairs your
mobility or that doesn't go away after 48 hours needs medical
Most simple aches and pains are the result of overexertion,
says Randy Braith, PhD, associate professor of exercise physiology at the
University of Florida in Gainesville. "Achiness in medical terms is known
as 'delayed onset of muscle soreness,' and that passes quickly," he says.
"Overuse injuries and repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel
syndrome, are more serious and will need to be seen by a doctor."
Here are some simple remedies for treating those pains that
don't need a doctor.
For a twisting injury to knee, hip, or other major joint, think
"That's short for rest, ice, compress, and elevate,"
says Cannon. "Right away after an injury, this is the first step to
take." Rest and ice are easy enough, and so is elevation, but what about
compression? Cannon says that it's important to apply light compression.
"You want to have no more compression than that which you
would get by simply resting your hand on the ice pack," he says. "The
pressure of an Ace-type bandage is too much and can cause significant extra
injury by affecting the superficial nerves in the area of injury."