There’s been a story in the media this week about a survey of 2,056 adults conducted for – guess what? – a back pain care product specialist, which reveals that more than 18 million people in the UK suffer from back pain, and 14% of them report that they’ve had to give up having sex because of it.
Further findings from the survey are that, of those who admitted to suffering from acute or chronic back pain, 24% said it led to poor mental health, 35% said it made them short-tempered and 15% said it had made them cry at work.
Parking one’s general cynicism about ‘surveys’ conducted by commercial organisations on principle, it surprises me that anyone should regard these findings worthy of note, or even remarkable.
As anyone who has passed the age of fifty will tell you, a growing list of regularly occurring aches and pains comes with the territory. Older comedians build careers on observational quips about the vagaries of living with infirmity and gradual lack of mental sharpness.
Two pertinent examples are the great Jackie Mason, with “You know you’re getting old when you bend down to tie up your shoelaces and find yourself asking ‘Now what else can I do whilst I’m down here?’ …” and Clement Freud, with his “The other day, unusually, a very attractive young lady approached me and asked if I would like to go upstairs and make love. I had to explain that it was a case of one or the other …”
A watershed moment in life’s passage occurs when you feel obliged to move from regarding a new oncoming ache, pain or localised discomfort after a bout of strenuous activity as something temporary that will disappear overnight, and then does … to a more laidback approach, in which mentally you merely add it to the long list of issues you are ‘managing’ as you go about your daily existence.
When we are young, we believe we are immortal, invincible and have no limitations.
When we are old, we know exactly the opposite.
Maturity is the bit in the middle, during which we begin to accept our limitations and learn to cope with them.