Last night I cried out in bed. No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking, but because of midlife arthritis. It was loud enough to stop my wife snoring, which was some consolation. But as I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of regret that now in middle age the injuries, aches and pains stayed with me. Gone was the default “give it a couple of days” recovery process. Now it is more of a “get it checked out” process. My body used to fix itself, but sadly it doesn’t any more.
I’ve always been active. Football, squash, rugby, golf… in fact any sport was my thing. I was never great, but I was a trier. Of course that was a recipe for injuries, and I’ve had a few. Broken arm, hand, collar bone, nose. Dislocated finger (twice). Add to that torn cartilage (both knees), stitches in my head and chin (multiple times) and many others and you get the idea. I over tried.
However when I reached middle age I noticed things change. I couldn’t recover as fast and gradually the sports started to drop off. It all finally hit the buffers with a visit to a specialist about hip pain that was not going away. I was still playing squash as the time, along with other overweight middle aged blokes (who liked playing inside in the warm too). It was my thing. And unusually for me I was quite good.
Midlife arthritis. At my age? Really?
“You’ve got grade 4 arthritis,” said the consultant jovially. “Worst you can have. Both hips but the left is particularly bad hence the pain.”
I smiled back. “So how long before it’s better?”
“Ah. That’s the point. This doesn’t get better until you have a hip replacement.”
I was staggered. A hip replacement was for old people, not 40 somethings. It turned out I had been playing the “wrong” sports. With my funny shaped hip joints, the twisting and turning had worn away pretty much everything. Apparently I was unlucky. Midlife arthritis is uncommon but not unheard of. A different sport, or less sport, and there would be no issue.
In actual fact Andy Murray had the same problem, so I guess I was at least on a level with other sporting pantheons. Albeit he is younger, fitter and has a wealth of healthcare support alongside him.
“Does that mean I won’t be able to play squash any more?” I asked nervously.
Then came the killer blow. “Well, not really. I mean, you have to look at yourself. You’re not a young man any more.”
So there it was. Old. No recovery without some serious medical intervention and even then if I had a replacement hip now, I’d need another later on (assuming I lived into my seventies).
For me this was a hammer blow on many levels. Something I’d once said was more fun than sex was now denied to me because of my age (a bit like sex, but that’s another story).
Operation and recovery. Of sorts.
I sulked for a few weeks. I tried all the treatments – a steroid injection, pain killers including CBD, but to no avail. My body which had used to fix itself now couldn’t even be fixed.
I ended up having a hip arthroscopy where they tried to reshape my hip joint to remove the spur that was causing the pain. Aside from some time off work, sympathy and the chance to watch a box set or two it didn’t really help.
Eventually I roused myself to consider alternatives to keep me sane. I invested in some lycra and started cycling. I went swimming. I even became a gym bunny. Well, if you can call a middle aged bloke in saggy shorts and t-shirt a gym bunny. It all helped, after all exercise is good for the mind and soul.
However it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the finality. No more squash, football, or rugby. They’re lost to me now unless I try for the hip replacement. Midlife, for all the self help guides and encouragement, is the beginning of a decline. It hasn’t helped being made redundant.
Keeping yourself sane is key, so alternatives must be found. The positive is that no one cares what you look like anymore, so you can invest in the lycra and reveal all, or sweat like a pig in dodgy t-shirts. Failing that just grow a belly in the pub.