Nearly all of us experience back pain at some point in our lives, and the list of possible causes is long — being overweight, smoking, poor eating habits, spinal diseases, and other health conditions, including cancer. And then there's the number-one cause of back pain: aging. The day-to-day use of our backs over time can cause back pain, says Robin Lustig, DC, a chiropractor at Lustig Healing Arts in Lodi New Jersey.
What's causing the ache? Your spine consists of individual bones called vertebrae, which are stacked one on top of the other. Between each vertebra are small joints that allow your spine to move, as well as disks with jelly-like centers that act as shock absorbers and prevent your bones from rubbing against each other.
In addition, the space around our spinal cord narrows over time. This condition, known as spinal stenosis, also puts pressure on the cord and spinal nerves, causing pain. Decreased bone mass, or osteoporosis, can also make the vertebrae vulnerable to fractures. The facet joints where each vertebra meets those vertebrae above and below, may also begin to degenerate, which is known as spinal arthritis.
Should you break a bone or experience whiplash during your lifetime, you can accelerate a type of arthritis that can cause back or neck pain, Dr. Lustig says. Treatment options for back pain are determined based on whether the pain is acute or chronic. Options typically fall into three categories: medications, physical medicine, and in some cases, surgery.
To helps stave off back pain as you age, it's very important to:Practice good posture when you stand or sitMaintain a healthy weightEat a healthy dietExercise to keep your back and abdomen strong and flexibleTake steps to reduce stress on your backIf you do experience back pain, even if you think the cause is aging, don't ignore it.
You don't have to live with back pain, no matter what your age. Talk to your doctor and see what can be done to provide back pain relief..
Take steps to prevent and manage back pain Share As your spine ages, you may start feeling some aches and pains. Here’s why back pain can develop as you age, and what you can do about it. Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission.
Policy The spine is a column of 24 bones stretching from your skull to your tailbone, encasing the spinal cord. Its bones, or vertebrae, are linked by tiny joints called facets. In between, discs filled with a jelly-like substance serve as a cushion. Rope-like ligaments stabilize the spine. The three most common reasons for developing back pain after age 50 are: Loss of moisture and resilience can make discs less effective as shock absorbers.
One spinal vertebra can slip forward onto the vertebra below. Any of these conditions can cause inflammation or pressure on nerves or pain. When this happens, Cleveland Clinic back pain specialists recommend: “Motion is lotion” for the spine, notes spine specialist E. Kano Mayer, MD. The more active you are, the better you’ll feel.
Physicians can prescribe a back-healthy exercise program to help you gain strength, and improve balance and flexibility. Strengthening your back and abdominal muscles — your core — will make your spine more resilient. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) — ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin — or acetaminophen can halt inflammatory pain. “Pulsed dosing — consistently taking the medicine two to three times per day for five to 10 days, even after pain subsides — is more reasonable than ‘as-needed’ dosing,” says Dr.
(Opioid pain relievers are not recommended for chronic back pain.) Reach for an ice pack first when back pain strikes. Applying ice (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off) helps quiet painful inflammation or muscle spasms. (A frozen bag of peas will also do the trick.) After two or three days, consider using a heating pad, taking warm baths or lying briefly under a heat lamp.
Mayer. Don’t overuse heat (by falling asleep on a heating pad, for instance) to avoid getting burned. Stretch warmed muscles to prevent muscle spasm after the heat source is removed. Aging tends to slow our recovery from injuries. But if your back “goes out,” gentle stretching is superior to bed rest.
If age-related back pain does not improve with conventional treatment, complementary medicine techniques may be added to the mix, including: Acupuncturists insert fine needles into the skin at specific body points and manipulate them. This can relieve chronic pain by stimulating the body’s healing process. Osteopathic doctors (DOs) or chiropractors use their hands to mobilize, adjust, massage and stimulate the spine and its surrounding tissues.