Today I am entering the final year of my fifties. The decade has been good to me in many ways, but this aging business reminds me of puberty—a new surprise every morning. Lately, it’s been my left knee. Some days, it’s painful enough to prevent me from walking to work. Walking to work is the only thing standing between my current level of unfitness and the next: a blob of blubber. I really need to conquer the knee. And, while you couldn’t pay me enough to actually age backwards, I would like to finish out my years as mobile as possible. So, I want to tell you about a pain relief tool I’m finding surprisingly helpful.
In August, 2015 my right shoulder suddenly became painful and my range of motion extremely limited, for no apparent reason. Six months went by before the left side followed suit, meaning both shoulders were out of commission. Window washing was out of the question. I could no longer pull dishes down from the upper cupboards. My clothesline hung empty and forlorn. Pain woke me at night. On the up side, I finally broke a life-long bad habit. My inability to place my arm on top of the seat or crane my neck around to see out the rear window forced me to learn how to use my side mirrors when backing out of the driveway!
I sought help from my chiropractor, massage therapist, and physiotherapist. The last two provided relief in the moment, but nothing seemed to really change. Then in 2017, my massage therapist, Claudette, shared a book called Aging Backwards by Miranda Esmonde-White. I read the book, then ordered one of her DVDs. It includes two half-hour workouts, one for posture and one for pain-relief. The latter is a whole-body workout, addressing shoulders, neck, back, hips, knees, hands and feet. The movements seemed too simple to be of any benefit, but to my surprise, my shoulder pain began to ease almost immediately (after two years of persistent pain)! Yes, it later returned. But by doing the workout daily, I soon began to see a steady decline in pain and an increase in range of motion. When my 86-year-old mom experienced shoulder problems, I walked her through some of the stretches. She was shocked by how quickly her pain subsided!
“I spent most of my life in chronic pain,” Esmonde-White says during her pain relief workout video. “It wasn’t until I developed this program fifteen years ago that I became completely pain- free.” And speaking of age, she’s been around ten years longer than I have, but looks much younger.
Esmonde-White is a Canadian, now based in Montreal. Following her career as a professional ballerina, she developed her own fitness technique called Essentrics, and became the flexibility trainer to numerous professional and Olympic athletes and other notable clients.
“Regular movement,” she says, “is the key to repairing all mechanical pain. We think we have to work hard to see any success, and end up working too hard and doing more damage. The trick is to work out of pain, not in pain.”
Don’t take my word for it. Without spending a dime, you can check out Miranda Esmonde-White and her many resources online, and follow along with some of her workouts on You Tube. “Aging Backwards” might be a stretch, but do let me know if you find it helpful. If you need me, I’ll be doing knee bends while I blow out my birthday candles.