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Common Pains as You Age: Feel Better

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature

An ache here, a cramp there. As your body ages, you may have more and new pains. There are things you can do to feel better.

In Your 30s

Headaches. Your 30s can be a hectic time of life. Stress at work and home is common at this age -- and can lead to headaches.

Sitting at a computer all day with your head in one position can strain your neck and cause your head to hurt, says Paul B. Langevin, MD, an anesthesiologist at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The Fix. To relieve stress, try deep breathing exercises. Treat yourself to a gentle massage or a warm bath.

To ease head pain from sitting at a computer, "try stretching your neck muscles by turning your head to the right, then left," suggests Allen Towfigh, MD, a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, "then gently trying to touch your ear to your shoulder in each direction."

A hot compress or over-the-counter pain medicine may also bring relief.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Pain in your wrists and hands caused by pressure on the nerves in your wrist.

Your genes and past injuries can make you more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome, but so can typing on keyboards, cell phones, tablets, and computer games, Langevin says.

The Fix. If you can, take a break from making the same motions over and over, like typing or texting.

Make sure your workspace is set up correctly. For example, while typing at a keyboard:

  • Sit against the back of the chair with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Keep your elbows at your side and your wrists straight.
  • Plant your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest.

Also, try using a wrist brace. Physical therapy and exercises that build up hand and arm muscles can also help. See a doctor if it doesn’t improve. Some people need surgery for this problem.

In Your 40s and 50s

Back Pain. As you age, stress on the spine from bad posture, a poor workplace set-up, and the wrong sleeping habits can all bring on lower back pain.

The Fix. Pay attention to your posture and how you lift things. "Ideally people should not lift more than 25% of their body weight without assistance," Langevin says. Look at your workplace arrangement. Is your chair the right height? Is your computer screen where it needs to be? Make adjustments if needed, says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! Does your back ache in the morning? Consider buying a new mattress, or trying a new position for sleeping.

Over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Try physical or chiropractic therapy, or exercise like Pilates or yoga. If you still don’t feel relief, talk with your doctor.

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