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Aging Is a Real Pain in the Neck. . .

And the Back. And the Knees. But with stretching and exercise to relieve the pain, it doesn’t have to be.
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Alan Hilibrand, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and spinal specialist based in Philadelphia. He tells WebMD that arthritis can be especially debilitating in the back. While almost everyone over the age of 60 develops arthritis in the lower back, some develop degenerative disks as early as their 20s and 30s.

Men run into problems when they fail to recognize their bodies are not as resilient as they once were, says Michael Schafer, MD, chairman of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University’s medical school and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). This is the “weekend warrior” syndrome: The guy who sits at a desk all week joins a pickup game of volleyball and ends up rupturing his Achilles tendon.

A variation on the weekend warrior syndrome is the man who decides to get back in shape and initially pushes himself too hard, leading to muscle soreness or inflammation. The risk weekend warriors face, Schafer says, is that the soreness or injury will lead them to give up on exercise altogether.

Proper conditioning can be thought of as a three-legged stool, Siegrist says. The first leg is flexibility, the second is cardio endurance, and the third is strength. Weightlifters, runners, and yoga fiends take note: “As you get older,” Siegrist says, “you’ll need to give equal time to all three.”

How flexibility gives you an edge over aches and pains

Stretching is vital to preventing aches and pains because it improves the pliability of the ligaments that support the joint, Siegrist tells WebMD. But keeping limber is the area of conditioning that men are most likely to neglect. To get the attention of her male patients, Siegrist informs them that keeping flexible is important in any sport that requires peak physical performance. “I tell my golfers that the other guys in your foursome probably aren’t stretching. So if you do, it will give you the edge. I joke that it will take 10 strokes off your game.”

Siegrist is a big fan of yoga, but if you can’t bear to do that, then you can stretch at your desk or while making coffee or watching TV. It doesn’t have to be just before or after workouts, she says. “Every little bit counts.”

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