Age related back pain affects a large number of people. With the passage of time, muscles lose elasticity, bones lose strength, and the spine loses cushioning as one ages, which in turn leads to lower back pain. Medical conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, viral infections, and other diseases can further contribute to the pain.
For many people, these degenerative age related changes in the spine have a negative impact upon their lives. Many people cite a loss in the ability to engage in physically-intense activities, such as exercise, or sometimes even simple activities like tending to the garden, or even walking, without being in constant pain.
Many of these changes may be irreversible. However, they can be managed, and improved to the point where the pain subsides. In this article, we’ll be presenting what you can do to return to a pain-free life that allows you to focus on what is important instead.
What changes occur in the aging spine?
Degenerative changes in the spine are those that cause the loss of normal structure and/or function due to wear and tear associated with aging. Repeated strains, sprains, and overuse of the back cause a gradual degeneration of the intervertebral discs of the spine.
These changes may cause symptoms such as:
- Back pain and stiffness
- Neck pain
- Leg pain
- Numbness and/or tingling in the spine
- Difficulty standing upright
- Difficulty walking
These symptoms may occur by themselves, but more often than not they appear due to the onset of various spinal disorders. Some of them are discussed below.
Disc degeneration can be caused by prolonged and irregular pressure on the discs due to the patient’s poor posture and bio-mechanical deformities (such as a short leg). After the age of 60 when even normal discs lose up to 20% of their water content, they become prolapsed (thinner) and are not as elasticated as before.
Remnants of the nucleus pulposus known as debris can then adhere to the sides of nerve sleeves causing pain. DDD often combines with other conditions such as osteophytosis or sponyltitus (cracks in the pars intervertebralis).
The degeneration of the facet joints (bones that are responsible for allowing movement in the spine) can lead to back pain and stiffness. With time and usage of the spine, these joins become worn down and are not as flexible and healthy as they once were, which is what may lead to back pain in older people.
This is a condition where the spinal canal (passage through which the spinal cord passes) becomes narrower. It may then place pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, leading to nerve pain. It can affect any region of the spine, be it the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, or cervical spine.
One of the main issues that a spinal stenosis sufferer encounters (apart from pain) is that of having difficulty walking.
Other spinal problems may affect the spine in old age, although these might not necessarily be attributed to age alone but may have other causes such as injuries, potentially causing a change in spinal curvature. Some notable mentions include: sciatica, herniated discs, bulging discs, muscle strains and sprains, bone spurs, poor posture, spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis, hyperkyphosis, and others.
Some more serious conditions that can lead to back pain in old age include: compressed vertebrae, compression fractures, damage to the spinal nerves, and tumours.
What can be done to manage/treat the pain that comes with degenerative changes in the spine?
The best thing to do to manage an ageing spine is to keep active lifestyle as much as possible, try to look after one’s posture and maintain or get to a healthy weight.
However, there are also treatment options available to boost recovery. Some of them are:
- Taking some form of pain medication to temporarily alleviate the pain and possible inflammation
- Physical therapy to re-mobilise the spine
- Surgical intervention (including the option for spinal fusion). As a side note, this method should be used as a last resort and in extreme cases only due to the high chance of complications and resurgence of the issue post-operation.
- Using a safe and non-invasive spinal decompression device to deal with back pain at home, such as the Spinal Backrack:
Spinal Backrack System
Through doing a series of exercises approximately 3x a week as required (depending on the severity of the condition) you can learn to manage an ageing spine effectively and not suffer from the symptoms any further without resorting to painkillers and unnecessary surgery. If you want further support whilst on the move, gardening, walking etc, you can use our Backrack Belt which treats as you carry on with your day.
Author: Spinal Backrack