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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.

Why you need cardio training to help lighten the load continued...

Orthopedic specialists urge strengthening the “core” — the stomach, back, rear, and thighs. Many men ignore these muscle groups in favor of the chest, biceps, and shoulders, says Schafer. But having a strong core should be the foundation of your workout program, he says. Hilibrand suggests meeting with a trainer or physical therapist to set up a program that focuses on core strengthening.

How bad is it, doc?

Some men will run to a specialist at the slightest muscle twitch. Others would rather hobble through their days than go near a doctor. The best course of action is somewhere in between, say orthopedists.

The key is to listen to your body, says Schafer. Ordinary joint soreness can be treated by scaling back on an activity, icing the joint, and taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) as needed. (The orthopedic association says that most mild sprains and strains can be treated through rest, ice, compression, and elevation — RICE.) If the pain persists and is accompanied by swelling, or if it interferes with your normal daily activities, you should seek a medical evaluation, Schafer says.

Siegrist says a daily dose of OTC painkillers is acceptable for most healthy people if it quiets their pain and allows them to be more active. (Some people should not take anti-inflammatories due to existing conditions or medications; consult your health care provider.) But if you find yourself routinely taking more than the maximum daily dose, you should see a doctor, says Siegrist.

Back pain can be particularly intractable. But proper conditioning can help you function with periodic pain, says Schafer. Conditioning may reduce the length or severity of painful episodes, he says, even if it does not permanently banish the pain. Some rehabilitation experts have developed specific exercises for back pain.

A patient like Liszt, Siegrist says, may want to seek out alternatives to knee replacement, such as a brace, different medications, or arthroscopic procedures that can ameliorate the pain. “There are lots of steps between nothing and a joint replacement,” she says. “They’re there to buy him time.”

But ultimately, there is no medical Fountain of Youth that will make you feel 20 again. And unless you mind your weight, exercise, and modify your activity to levels that are appropriate for your level of conditioning, Siegrist says, even “the best operation in the world won’t be successful.”

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Reviewed on July 01, 2007

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