It’s Not Always about Age

trigger-fingerToo often I hear people say things like “It hurts, but what can I expect at my age?” Friends may complain that they can no longer walk or dance or hike or whatever as much or as fast as they used to, and they assume it has to do with getting older. But that’s not always the case.

Not long ago, I wrote about my failing eyesight. It turned out to have little to do with my age and everything to do with me getting the wrong eyeglass prescription. Because of the many negative stereotypes about aging, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ascribing problems to the passage of time.

A year ago, a finger on my right hand started giving me trouble. I couldn’t move it. It would bend and I couldn’t unbend it. My first thought was that arthritis was setting in. My grandmother had suffered from it for many years, so I assumed it was my turn. But the symptoms didn’t mimic those of arthritis.

Several times a day, my finger got stuck in a bent position and I had to use my other hand to straighten it out. Still, arthritis or not, I attributed the problem to age.

When I brought it up at my next doctor visit, she examined my hand, smiled, and handed me an article about something called “trigger finger.” She explained that repetitive hand use and prolonged gripping, especially the gripping of vibrating machinery, were risk factors. When she asked me about what I had been doing, I remembered that the day before this started, I had been holding a leaf blower for four straight hours.

So, my finger issue had nothing to do with age at all. But who the heck ever heard of trigger finger, other than with a gun? Just a week ago, I ran into a (much younger) friend whose hand was all bandaged up. I was amazed to learn he had just had surgery for—you guessed it—trigger finger!

How many ailments have you written off to age? How many of them might be due not to age, but to habits? I’m grateful I am able to type comfortably and continue doing other things around the house. But given the way I tend to overdo things, I will stop using my leaf blower. Pay attention to the ways you work and play, and don’t be so quick to blame problems on your age.

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