While an older adult can experience pain from any condition that affects their younger counterpart, people over the age of 60 are more likely to have pain stemming from degeneration of the joints in the spine. In the past, it has been recommended for the elderly to try and rest in order to avoid back pain, but more and more modern research is showing that an active role in taking care of your back is the best way to go.
As a note, before implementing some of the advice in this article, try to get some general knowledge about back issues from industry sources on spinal conditions including osteoporosis like Back Pain Centers of America, as well as consult with your medical professional of choice. They will be able to help provide you with some customized advice and a plan that fits your body and lifestyle.
What’s Happened To My Back?
Some of the causes of back pain when you get older are unavoidable parts of aging, but can be mitigated (more on that later). For example, with aging, muscles begin to lose elasticity, the bones start to lose strength, and your spine loses its cushioning. These natural aspects can also be exacerbated by injuries like a disk rupturing or bulging. This can be caused by accidents or falls, or something as simple as lifting something that’s too heavy for you. Medical conditions can also contribute to back pain, with some including:
On top of all this, certain lifestyle traits also serve as risk factors to back pain later in life. These include smoking, inactivity, being overweight, stress, poor posture, and a history of poor sleeping habits.
Feeling Like Your Old Self
While it may a bit of a surprise, one of the best ways to help with your back troubles, as we are finding out, is exercise. It’s important to note that while there may be a little pain at first going this route, especially if you didn’t have a workout regimen before, doing this now may help you avoid a lot of pain in the end.
As a general rule of thumb, you will want to consult with a doctor to determine the nature and origin of your back pain, and then put a regimen together that will target the afflicted area. Some types of exercises that are common among elderly looking for back support include abdominal stretching exercises that promote flexibility and strength in the muscles that support the back. Crunches and leg lifts are good examples. Posture and stretching exercises will help increase your range of motion and safety when you are working to improve your back. Regular aerobic exercises may not directly support your back, but being in better shape will help improve the quality of your other workouts. If you are interested in taking on yoga or pilates, now may be the time. These exercises are both low-impact and promote flexibility, exactly the type of workout you are looking for.
Along with exercises, it is important to get the necessary nutrients that you need in order to properly complement your workout. In some cases, older adults either produce less of or require higher levels of certain nutrients to function properly. These include calcium and vitamin D for bone health, which is particularly important for back support. Along with dairy products, fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with soft bones are all good sources of vitamin D. Other things to look out for include potassium, vitamin B12, and fiber.
If you are looking to get a little extra help, you may want to consider seeing a physical therapist. A physical therapist can use active methods like stretching and exercise along with passive methods like heat, ice, and massages to help soothe your back pain. Alternative therapies in this area include chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, and ultrasound. They have been shown to have some degree of effectiveness, but not nearly as much research has been done in these areas.
Combining a bone-friendly diet with regular exercise to fight some of the natural parts of aging will both cut down on back pain and allow you to enjoy a more active lifestyle in your later years. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a bad back is just a natural consequence of growing older.