We all experience the wear and tear that comes naturally as a part of aging. Our body can start to develop all sorts of hiccups as we inch up in years, and our joints are some of the body parts that seem to get targeted the hardest. Back pain is very common amongst adults and amongst older adults, especially. It’s the leading cause of workplace disability, after all. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.
Here, we’re going to look at some of the most common causes of back pain as you get older, and what you can do to manage them so you can take care of and protect that back.
One of the most common causes of back pain amongst all older adults, osteoarthritis is also the most common form of arthritis, occurring when the cartilage cushioning the bones starts to wear down. This form of arthritis can affect the hands, knees, and hips, as well as the spine. It can lead to a loss of mobility, pain, and stiffness, often associated with a grating feeling in the joint. While it can’t be reversed, it can be treated with medications to relieve pain, while physical therapy can strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints.
Literally meaning “porous bones,” this is a condition that leads to weakening bones, which can make them more likely to get damaged and experience fractures. While older people, in general, are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, it affects women in particular. As such, it’s important to take regular bone density tests, especially if you experience back pain. There are various ways to manage osteoporosis, which can include the use of vitamin and mineral supplements, hormone therapy to help you retain and increase bone density, and exercise to help you both increase bone density and strengthen the muscles that are supposed to support your bones.
This condition refers to when the spaces in your spine start to narrow, often due to an overgrowth of bone, tumors, or spinal injuries. It’s often related to some of the other conditions we will cover a little further down in the post as well and can lead to some very severe consequences such as numbness, weakness, balance problems, and even paralysis if it goes untreated (though this is not common.) Spinal stenosis is often treated through physical therapy to maintain flexibility and stability in the spine, as well as steroid injections and sometimes even surgery to relieve the pressure.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
Also known as degenerative disc disease, this is another of the most common causes of back pain, as well as neck pain. Rather than a disease (the name is something of a misnomer), this condition is due to the natural wear and tear on the discs in the spine, which can lead to pain, instability, as well as other issues (such as potential spinal stenosis.), and therefore, treating intervertebral disc disease focuses on a few key areas. There are pain management treatments, such as cold or heat therapy as well as pain medications. Exercise and physical therapy such as strengthening exercises and stretching can help as well. There are also surgical treatments, such as an artificial disc replacement or spinal fusion.
Slipped Disc Due to Injury
While degenerative disc disease is one of the leading causes of a slipped disc, it’s not the only one. Injuries can also lead to a slipped or herniated disc. As such, there are ways that you can avoid it, which are even more widely recommended if you do have the above-mentioned condition. You can prevent a slipped disc by avoiding sitting too much, ensuring you’re not pushing too hard during exercise, learning to lift items properly, ensuring a proper posture, and more.
There are muscles in your back that are designed to help support your spine. When these muscles become injured due to a strain or a sprain, then your back is more vulnerable and can experience some of the conditions mentioned above if you put too much pressure on it. As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to maintain a healthy core through routine exercise. Losing flexibility and strength in your back muscles can make sprains and strains a lot more common in older adults.
If you’re experiencing any back pain that doesn’t go away after a day or two, you should see your doctor. The sooner you get on top of the causes mentioned above, the better your chances of effectively managing that pain.