Are they right to be so pessimistic? Do those who are older need to expect muscular pain and stiffness? Does it “come with the territory” and if so, can anything be done about it?
Let me explain. Muscles usually ache and restrict movement because they are tense. Individual muscle cells contract all the time, that’s what causes muscles to shorten, pulling two bones closer together and producing movement. But tense muscles don’t fully relax and this produces pain and limits range of motion across a joint.
There are lots of reasons why muscles stay tense – see my earlier blog “Why Do Muscles Ache?”, February, 2013. Usually, this tension dissipates but sometimes it doesn’t. In these chronic situations tension remains and our bodies adapt.
Sounds bad right? Well, yes it can be pretty uncomfortable and limiting that’s for sure. But not irreversible. Fascia is remains malleable even into very old age. Techniques for releasing dry, fibrotic connective tissue may have to be adapted for the elderly but a competent therapist should be able to do this to relieve pain and promote greater movement. At any age.