If you’re a senior citizen with back pain, you’re far from alone. In fact, research indicates that the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain—including back pain—could be as high as 85 percent of the older adult population. Most people don’t even experience back pain for the first time until they’re well into adulthood, but, by the time they reach 50, mild to moderate back pain is simply par for the course.
Why is this? It all has to do with the natural aging process. One of the primary culprits is osteoarthritis of the spine, a degenerative condition that occurs when the cartilage in the spinal joints erodes over time. Other back pain causes for older adults include decreased bone mass (osteoporosis) and the narrowing of the spinal cord (spinal stenosis), which can put pressure on the nerves in the back and cause pain.
The first step toward developing a solid back pain treatment plan is to try to determine the root cause of your pain. From there, you may be able to find long-term solutions that can help you live a happy, active life in old age. In the meantime, you can consider trying these lower back pain remedies at home for some much-needed relief.
1. Low-Level Laser Therapy
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a cutting-edge, clinically proven technology that can provide temporary relief of minor muscle and joint aches, pain, and stiffness in the back. Wearing a laser therapy device, such as a Curavi belt, aids in the relaxation of muscles and temporarily increases local blood circulation to help ease back pain.
How does laser treatment help back pain? It uses low-level lasers to penetrate the tissue and modulate the inflammatory response. The best part is, it’s an effective at-home treatment with no known adverse side effects and zero of the standard risks associated with pharmaceuticals or surgery.
2. Stretching and Exercise
Have you ever heard the saying “motion is lotion, rest is rust”? Well, it’s sure true when it comes to pain in the back! Exercise actually lubricates the joints. When you’re active, your body boosts circulation of synovial fluid, the fluid which helps oil up your joints and allows for smoother movements. At the same time, blood flow increases and nutrients are more effectively distributed, helping to nourish and repair the injuries and inflammation causing your back pain.
Another thing that happens when we age is that our muscles weaken and we become more prone to injuries, such as sprains and strains in the low back. This often happens because the core muscles are weak and not able to properly support the spine as well as the tissues and muscles surrounding it. Strength training and stretching can help build these muscles back up so that the spine is properly supported.
3. Hot and Cold Therapy
Heat therapy and cold therapy are two great ways to deal with lingering pain throughout the body, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders. Applying an ice pack for about 20 minutes at a time can help reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. Heat therapy, such as applying a hot pack or soaking in the hot tub, can help relax the muscles and boost blood flow. If you’ve suffered an injury, be sure to wait a few days for the initial pain to lessen before using heat therapy.
4. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy and chiropractic care may be two good options for complementary therapies in your back pain relief plan. Massage can help older adults with stiff, sore back muscles feel relief from pain and enjoy improved range of motion and flexibility. These therapies are often employed in osteoarthritis treatments as well, as they can help the muscles surrounding the spine relax. A chiropractic adjustment may also result in pain relief by reducing some of the pressure on the vertebrae in the back, but be sure to consult your physician before getting an adjustment.
A Natural Part of Aging
As we age out of certain things, we age into others. Unfortunately, most people age into a bit of pain as they get older. The good news is that there are a few tried and true back pain relief options available for senior citizens seeking real relief. Because age-related back pain shouldn’t prevent you from living a happy, healthy, and full life in your golden years. The next time you feel the ache start to worsen, try one of these great remedies.
Causes of Back Pain in Elderly
1. Muscle Strain and Ligament Sprain
Two of the most common reasons for lower back pain are muscle strains and sprains, often results from sudden twisting movements. Strains occur when a muscle becomes over-stretched, while a sprain can occur when over-stretching progresses to a ligament tear. Since the ligament connects bone to bone/cartilage, it can take much longer to fully heal. Some of the common causes that lead to sprains:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Rapid, jerky movements
- Poor posture
- Sitting for increased periods
Thus, it is advised that a senior should not perform strenuous physical activities. They should also engage in low impact activities like walking, cycling, and swimming to remain active and be aware of their posture when sitting, standing, and walking. They should seek help from a physician or a caregiver if they experience severe back pain.
2. Degenerative Disc Disease
In spite of its name, this is actually not a disease but a condition. It occurs in the spinal cord, when the intervertebral discs in one’s spine lose hydration and wears down as we age. These rubbery discs between the vertebrae would usually allow an individual to flex or bend and act as shock absorbers. Overtime, the spine is no longer able to withstand impact and forces that may lead to tears and thus results in pain in the lower backbone. This is the reason why older people find it difficult to perform certain tasks related to bending, stooping, and lifting.
3. Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord becomes increasingly narrows. This applies pressure on the cord and spinal nerves between the vertebrae which cause pain, numbness, or cramping, often in the lower back and neck. One of the biggest factors for developing spinal stenosis is ageing. The two most common spinal stenosis are:
- Cervical stenosis - a condition that occurs when the spinal canal is too small for the spinal cord, which can cause damage to the spinal cord or pinch nerves.
- Lumbar stenosis - a condition that occurs when the spinal canal in the lower back narrows, causing pain and/or numbness in the legs.
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle and maintaining decent posture can help prevent spinal stenosis as we age.
Sciatica radiates from the lower back down to the leg due to the compression of a nerve root in the lower back. It usually only affects one side, but can affect both. It can be driven by obesity, tight clothing, and limited movement. It's also common to experience numbness, a tingling sensation, or weakness in the affected leg or foot. Consulting a physician or doctor can help ease these symptoms and are usually treated with medication and physical therapy.