Back Pain in the Older Adult

istock 1070713620 1 1 It is not uncommon for adults to experience back pain more frequently once they reach age 60. Because this is the case, there is somewhat of a normalcy to this problem. When the older adult begins to notice more aching in the lower back or more tension in the shoulders and neck, they chalk it up to aging. This is not a mindset we want to encourage. Neck pain, back pain, and sciatica are not age-related conditions. They are indicative of a structural problem that needs attention. Here, we discuss some of the contributing factors to back pain in our 60s and what can be done to manage optimal spinal health.

Degenerative Disc Disease

This common spine condition is one of the primary reasons people think that back pain is an age-related problem.  Degenerative disc disease describes the wear and tear that can affect the discs that cushion the spine. Worn-down discs may leak fluid or become displaced. Either situation can cause compression on nearby nerves, resulting in pain. The risk of degenerative disc disease can be higher as we get older because the spine has had more years of carrying weight. People who engage in strenuous activity, who have been overweight, or who have poor posture are more likely to experience pain related to disc degeneration. Strategies to  reduce the risk of this condition, then, are to engage in low impact exercise that strengthens the core and the back muscles, maintain a healthy weight, and rest as needed to allow the body to self-repair. 

Menopause

Women nearing menopause often hear from their doctors that they will have an increased risk of osteoporosis once they stop menstruating. This is because menopause means a sharp decline in estrogen to nearly nonexistent levels. Estrogen isn’t just a reproductive hormone, it also helps support ongoing bone regeneration. Without it, the bones become more fragile over time. Women with osteoporosis are more susceptible to fractures in any area of the body, including the spine. To maintain optimal bone health, menopausal women should take a daily vitamin that includes calcium and vitamin D. Low impact exercise like walking or yoga are also beneficial for strong bones and muscle tone. 

Activity Changes

In our mid to late sixties, many of us are ready to retire. This is a celebratory time for most, as it represents a new beginning. With much more time on our hands, we can take up a new hobby and still have plenty of time to rest and recuperate from our decades of work. In retirement, the spine can both repair itself and also face risks associated with new movements and activity levels. If you’re in your retirement years, it is important to stay active and also to be mindful of what your body is telling you. Go slow. Rest often. Talk to your doctor about how to stay vital and mobile. 

Life changes with every passing decade, which can affect the spine. If you’re ready to explore treatment for back pain that is keeping you on the sidelines, contact us! Call 201.342.8060 for your appointment at our  Tampa pain management practice. 

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