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Monday, 30 March 2009

Aches and Pains of Age

category_bug_journal2.gif One of the unwritten rules of elderhood is that we may not talk about our aches and pains. Somehow, old people have a reputation for dwelling on them, but that's not my experience and it could be that we – or, the old people I know – have been brainwashed by the youth culture to keep silent.

Well, not today.

I am grateful for my health. Aside from slightly raised cholesterol levels controlled with medication, I have no age-related health problems – no arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, etc. But I do have the odd ache or pain that I didn't have when I was younger.

On Sunday morning, I woke with a stitch in my side. Nothing debilitating, just irritating. I let it go for a few hours until remembered I have several painkillers in the cupboard. Sometimes you don't realize how much something hurts until it stops. What could I have done in my sleep to cause that?

Not exactly a pain, but for several years when I stood after sitting for a good while – lingering at dinner with friends, for example - I couldn't walk for half a minute or so without hobbling. It happened every morning when I got out of bed too. I realized recently that I've been hobble-free for many months now, maybe more than a year. It would help if I could figure out what changed so it doesn't return someday.

My elbows occasionally ache. I notice it when I lean on one and when I investigate by squeezing a little, it becomes real pain. Thinking it might be arthritis, I asked the doctor about it. She doubts it is arthritis and said, “So don't squeeze it.” That advice is hard to follow; I always want to see if still hurts.

Every few weeks or so, a stabbing pain attacks the second toe of my left foot. I mean, horrendous, teeth-grinding, wanna-scream pain. It is intermittent – each stab doesn't last long – but it repeats every few minutes for an hour or so and then disappears until next time, maybe a month or two. What's that about?

And here's a strange one: once in awhile, one of my earlobes aches horribly, although not for long.

A few trips through Google looking for “old age” and “aches and pains” turned up nothing useful. All the articles are about back, neck and joint pains or conditions mentioned above, some of which can be alleviated with moderate exercise. I am at a loss as to what exercises I can do for my second toe and earlobe.

Now in the greater scheme of things and compared to the real health problems of some elders, none of this is worth mentioning. But I'm curious about whether I am alone in experiencing random pains unrelated to conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, etc. and that don't seem to indicate a health problem.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek writes of When I Slept with Lauren Bacall.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I bet there's a lot of comments today! I'm sure you're not alone. I've had some luck with getting various aches and pains diagnosed, but overall I've found the internet and most doctors not helpful.

My former doctor specialized in sports medicine and he was pretty good at diagnosing stuff, but my elbow pain left him stumped. I later went to a naturopath and he diagnosed muscle pain due to overuse, I am inclined to accept that diagnosis. He recommended warm castor oil compresses, but I'm just too lazy so I endure the pain instead.

Is there a possibility your toe pain is gout?

The ear lobe thing sounds like a difficult one, good luck with it!

Hi folks.
Medical discussion will bring out thousands of comments. I blew a disc in October (talk about pain) and ended up in a walker until surgery and now I am just left with chronic back discomfort. I think the saying "it's better than the alternative" applies to my situation and that's what we elders do, we look at the bright side, usually. We must.

This sounds like a very worthwhile topic. I would love to know other people's experiences with this.

I can certainly relate to the subject of your post this morning Ronni. From time to time I, like you, find myself favoring some affliction that has manifested itself in my being for no apparent reason. There was an instance in the distant past when I just all of a sudden for no apparent reason seem to be experiencing stomach pain and after several trips to the doctor, a CT scan and several hundred bucks, no diagnoses whatsoever was revealed. The affliction went quietly into the night – never more to make itself known.

Since then, I have had several other occurrences of these type afflictions which I have come to lovingly refer to as “poltergeist afflictions”. By the way, I gave Goggle a shot on the “poltergeist affliction” term but that turned out to be fruitless. Nevertheless, with the help of you and “Time Goes By”, we may be able to get this term incorporated into the medical language of our times so that future generations receive the benefits from our suffering.

On the other hand, I have found that I should not get too caught up in my self-proclaimed understanding of this phenomenon. A couple of weeks ago I had experienced a tooth ache for no apparent reason and suffered with some minor pain and irritation for a couple of days and assumed that it was a ‘poltergeist affliction’ and would go away as quickly as it had appeared. Finally after two days of no relief I decided to take a Tylenol and the pain immediately went away. The moral of that story of course is to not get too caught up in your own medical expertise and forget to treat the symptoms.

By George, I think you've got it!

No, I don't know what it is. I just know, like you, that the odd pains come with elderhood. Maybe it's a test?

Good post, as usual, Ronni! I can relate to the earlobe thing & also the toe thing. The toe thing usually comes at night & in other toes, too. I asked my yoga instructor about it & she said,(very wisely!) that pain in the toes comes from not exercising them, so I began to exercise them & lately the cramping is much less, mostly gone.

I'm inclined to agree with Steven....it's a test. Have a great painless day :)Dee

Here's how it was explained to me by a physician:

As we get older, the discs in our spine dessicate and deteriorate. Of course, all of our nerves run through the spine. So, when you get up in the morning or stand up after sitting for a long time, the sudden change in position puts pressure on one of those damaged discs. Nerves run nearby and one gets pinched by the damaged disc. The "injury," if you can call it that, is actually in your spine, but since that nerve runs to a distant spot, you feel pain in your toe, your elbow or somewhere else.
Probably the best thing you can do is work to keep good posture, stay physically active and not worry too much.

From someone with many referred tings and pings!


You mentioned that your raised Cholesterol was kept under control with medication. Usually that medication is a Statin drug like Lipitor or Lescol. There are dozens of them, I think.

Anyway, Statin drugs are notorious for causing joint aches and pains and many people have to go to a different med to control their cholesterol. Could being on one of the statins be part of your problem?

Just a thought. I am certainly no authority on this or any other medical problem....

I don't buy the when you get old theory..on any pain. I kinda like the Poltergeist pain theory though. The toe pain, if there is swelling could be gout or it could be stiffness or shoe squeeze problem

I have aches and pains, stiffness that comes and goes. Bones lose their density after age 40...10% each decade so I take my calcium and vit. D but still get the pains and aches.

Maybe positional....maybe poltergeist, yeah, that's what it is, poltergeist.

That's so accurate a name “poltergeist affliction.” My Mom had and I have elbow pain that seems to be caused by the subcutenous layer of fat in the skin disappearing. The skin on my elbows is papery thin at 67. I lean on my elbows more than when I was younger and with the lack of padding it is painful after awhile. Don't koow if this is similar. I find it odd with the extra 25-30 pounds of padding I carry that the pointy parts, knees, elbows, the bones in our rears have no padding these days.

No you are not alone! I imagine you are getting loads of posts this morning.

The hobbling I noticed for several years--comes and goes. No arthritis yet, but bad knee pain. This has been diagnosed, though. You are talking about odd coming and going pain.

For years I had an odd pain in my side. Had ultrasound looking for gall bladder prob. Nothing found. Still have this pain every so often, but its been coming and going for years. Who knows?

Speaking of padding, where I lack is on the bottoms of my feet. It is almost as if there is only bone and skin. Shoes for me must have extra stuff under my soles. Apparently this is fairly common for older women. (I'm told.)

More that aches and pains, I deal with dry skin and eczema. I hate it!

It's never accompanied by any pain, but in recent years I've started having occasional optical migraines. I've been told they're nothing to worry about, but they are distracting when they occur. I also get occasional stabbing pains in the right shoulder, which an OSHA rep once told me is from overusage of the mouse when I'm working. When that happens I just knock off for the day.

Yet another wonderful post. I am only 51, yet I have Poltergeist pain in my joints on a regular basis. My hip and my feet, especially. If I keep up my regular yoga practice everything is much better...but I also get the hobbles if I sit a certain way for too long. I also forget about pain killers, because I never had to use them regularly before. Thanks for sharing!

Aches and pains? Ah, a subject near and dear to my 60 year old heart!

I figured that these little annoyances are just part of the wisdom filled journey into 'elderhood'...aren't they?

I just had to have a brand new toilet installed in my master bathroom (don't ask!)...and, the plumber mistakenly ordered me a taller, handicapped version. At first I was appalled (how dare he think that I needed that!)...but, I have to admit that I am actually beginning to like this new 'throne' and the ease with which I can get up and down from it. No more achy joints and moaning and groaning on my part.

Hmmm....I think that it was a mistake...!

: )

I'm only 40, but I do relate! I have some chronic back problems (scoliosis, herniations, etc.) that make pain flare up and then it gradually abates to a certain baseline. But in recent years I've started to have a mysterious hip pain, occasional knee aches, and my feet are a mess: heel spurs, some clawtoes and bunions starting, too. I have the stabbing second toe pain in the mornings; my podiatrist thinks it's just arthritis starting, but my guess is some kind of pinched nerve.
Regular activity does seem to help, but it's not a miracle cure, either.

Anyway, it may not be solely an age phenomenon.

I have a little arthritis, but my doc won't call it that. A rose by any other name......

Sometimes 2-3 of my toes hurt, or rather the area just behind the toes in the foot. It's either calcium deposits or arthritis, I think. I have a stitch in my side from time to time and I have no idea where it comes from.

I, too, experience random pains from time to time. If a sit for a long period, I become very uncomfortable and do not have an easy time standing. If I don’t exercise regularly the pain is much worse. Also, after a day of walking recently in the city, my feet pained me like never before. This surprised me since I always wear my same comfortable shoes.

I get a phantom pain in one toe now and then but it doesn't last long and is nowhere near as painful as you are experiencing. The joint pain I don't think relates to the statin as our doctor told us that if you get that pain, it's very intense and different than the usual plus I think it's in the muscles, not the joints. I just think aging is the body wearing out and it's bound to hurt sometimes. I know it helps me to do stretches and often before I get up. Makes a huge difference in my back.

Besides the aches and pains of my own, I am also suggestible, opening the door to all sorts of new ones. Thank goodness for having just heard of the "Poltergeist Affliction." Now there's one I don't mind having.

I was brought up to not complain about physical pains, or anything else for that matter. (No, I'm not a Spartan, just the child of farm folks.) As a result, I seldom complain about the various little aches and pains I have. My wife chided me for that just last week -- she rightly says I need to keep her informed about my health.

I do have "poltergeist pains" that come and go, then I have pains that are fairly consistent. I was in an automobile accident in 1978 that I barely survived, and it left me with numerous permanent injuries that still plague me to this day. Some were to my spine, and as Paula mentioned, that has caused all sorts of phantom pain from time to time.

If I were to do an inventory right now, there would be the joint pain in my left shoulder, the chest pain (not heart disease, just had a treadmill test), left ankle pain that is new today, two ingrown toenails that I dread getting fixed, right elbow (new), slight headache, and a pinpoint pain in my abdomen (new).

But one blessing from my childhood is that I have learned to ignore them, and that many of them will go away on their own. I have also learned that the milder pain killers such as aspirin have no effect on the the phantom pains, and I am reluctant to take anything stronger. I have not told my wife about most of this, not only because I don't like to complain, but they are transient and will be gone tomorrow.

I have come to expect pain somewhere all the time, so the pains of growing older do not upset me, with one exception: when they mess with my ability to move around and think. Those I will complain about and go to the doctor to get some relief.

I don't claim a halo surrounds my head, or that I am a superior creature. Just that I wanted to present a viewpoint from someone who has been in pain for decades, and has gained a different perspective about the little aches and pains that accompany growing older.


You may want to research plantar fasciitis as a possible explanation for the hobbling when you first get up in the morning or after prolonged sitting.

Evenin' Ronni,

"A Day without Pain is a Day without Life"

This sentence is from my January 18, 2009 entry, "What's One Thing?" To feel it in its' full context simply go to http://alleypatron.blogspot.com/search?q=A+Day+without+Pain

In the meantime Pain of course is a personal thing and seems to get distracted more easily for me with a kind word, a pleasant thought, peaceful surroundings.

Which did not work on Hangovers, Sobriety took care of them.

Morphine worked great for my Craniotomy.

Rest and Mobility get me through the other frustrating discomforts.

The daily aches I'm grateful for as they are friendly reminders that I am still operational.

Turn on to some of your favorite music and see what happens,kinda like a
♪♫Bubble Bath Blues Boogie♫♪for your Body 'nd Brain.


Peter Lott Heppner
Alley Patron

The next day after your post, Ronni. Fascinated by responses and wonder if those of us with elbow, back, wrist too, pains are frequent computer users. Do we need more studies of connection between upper body discomfort and this type of repetitive stress?

Please give Alan G a special prize for "poltergeist afflictions." I'm hoping to work it into conversations frequently today.

I spent hours and hours playing the piano and too much time at the computer so had a continual pain in my left shoulder. Then I fell on a brick walkway and injured the left elbow which made the whole arm hurt and then woke up one morning with trigger finger in both hands. I started acupuncture and (after having one doctor tell me it would never improve) found a great chiropractor who helped immensely. After learning about chiropractic I would recommend anyone have a check up with a good one. The newest methods are gentle and safe. I'd still be having a hard time sleeping without his treatments.

Neuropathy in the feet ....An age related problem ....sometimes the preview of diabetes lurking in the unseen background...

Yeah, lots of aches and pains. And I'm only 61! The most troublesome lately is the hobbling. Never happened to me before. However, I'm overweight for the first time in my life, too, so... I'm thinking that's the cause.

Maybe yours went away when you started eating all those veggies, Ronni. ??

Appreciated the suggestion (from Tana) of Plantar fasciitis and when I looked it up, well, could be...

Back to the point, though. I feel no shame whatsoever in talking about my aches and pains. I mean, that kind of sharing is how we learn things from others, for one thing. Like how I just learned about Plantar Fasciitis, which I'd never heard of before! And maybe that info will set me on the path of understanding and maybe even FIXING my OWN problem. :) Love it!

Rec'd a Statin drug a few years ago, then some time later started having unusual pain in my right arm. Dr. didn't take my complaint seriously and I'm not a frequent complainer. I kept searching for a cause and finally read the side effects for the Statin. Discovered such pains in body possible and can be an indication of muscle deterioration. Talked to Dr. next check up and he wasn't concerned. Periodic pain continued and I took it seriously. Finally, I just stopped the Statin, told him I had done so on my next visit some time later. Interestingly my arm pain ended. He put me on a different Statin. Really have to be your own Dr. sometimes as their priorities may not be the same as yours -- and it's not always "in your head" if you disagree. If you use common sense, you probably know your body more than anyone else, including your Dr. much of the time.

I'm 54, early advanced breast cancer in remission after double m., etc.

Mother is 84, in near-perfect health. Main topic for her is the failing health of all her peers. (Joined now by the lay-offs of their children.)

I have begged her to stop, but she refuses. She feels she has the right to make me listen, because SHE IS THE MOTHER. (And, yes, she has all her marbles, and more.)

Am I wrong to wish for her death? This is the woman who orchestrated my beatings as a child--and it never ends.

Ellen...you are so lucky to have your mother...mine died in 1997 at age 83 and not a day goes by without my missing and longing to hug her. (just become deaf if you don't like what she is saying...) you were beat as a child - how awful...
Ronni - the aches and pains are RUST. The Golden Years are really the rusty ones...Oye Vay - aging is not for sissies.

Hi, I have just googled aches and pains and absolutely loved your poltergeist theory! I am 45 and have noticed that in this last year, I have many aches and pains that I have never had before. At the moment my main bug bearer is the pain/ache in my outer thigh, I have had this for months and I find I can't sit in certain positions for very long, or even sit cross legged as it starts to really hurt. Sitting watching tv with my feet tucked up underneath me in a no no as my thigh really hurts. Then there are the aches I have due to the way I sleep. I have always slept with my knees tucked up (habit) and I now get an awful aching around my waist and I know it is because of the position in which I sleep. I consiously try to sleep straight but my body automatically goes back into that position... don't know what the answer is there. That particular ache disappears during the day. Just over this last week, I have aches and pains in both shoulders. Now, I think this could be something to do with the way I sit at my computer and the way I am holding my upper back/shoulders and becasue they twinge, I am reluctant to use then and then restrict my usage of my shoulders, hence making it worse becasue when I do excersies on them, the aches ease. I actually (embarrasingly) went to the emergency doctor about 2 weeks ago with a horrendous pain in my side (extrutiating pain), to be told it was 'muscular'!!! So all in all, at 45 years old and fairly fit and well, my aches and pains are becoming a part of my daily life. I have asked other people of similar age to me if they suffer the same and nearly all admit they do in some way or another. Someone also said to me that post menopausal women get lots of aches and pains, so maybe that is contributing, who knows. Oh the joys of getting older!!

Oh my goodness, I just love this site but I see the posts are from 2009! Nothing changes! anyone still around the site? Jean

I do have pains in both of my calf muscles and neck that come and go on a monthly or yearly basis.I also have memory loss.I thought that these might be due to ageing usually termed as Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases. Now I am on your page . I do not accept them as I am otherwise healthy for my 80+age.

Yes, still here. The comments are so true to life. Aches and pains just come and go. I'm 55, and pretty fit.

Im 61, recently my mother passed away,i was her carer and she was 94 years old, whether its because I was caring for my mother and didn't really have time to think about me or what, but now have so many aches and pains I dare not go to my doctors, she will prob have me put down.

The above post by Karen could be me... A pain in my side was misdiagnosed for 3 years as acid reflux... I found out what it was on my own. Bad gallbladder. Seems like everything aches any more..I did find that the more weight I lose, the better I feel.

It's not surprising that one poster cured his pain by ceasing his statin drug. This was after reading the side effects for his prescription. He says you have to be your own doctor. Damn right you do. My father's months long ordeal after cardiac arrest is a testament to that. Several times with various doctors, I had to bring up side effects and push for stopping certain prescriptions. They were oblivious. The health care in our advanced country is sometimes negligent.

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