Is Back Pain Normal As You Age?

Back pain is an extremely common condition, with more than 80% of people suffering back pain at one point or another. Back pain has the power to significantly inhibit your daily life and it’s one of the leading causes of disability in the United States.

While any number of things can cause back pain, a big cause of back pain is simply getting older. Age brings changes in the body, and spinal deterioration is a common complaint among people over the age of 60. Most people begin noticing age-related back pain between the ages of 40-50.

There’s nothing you can do to stop the hands of time, but you shouldn’t put your life on hold for age-related back pain. Learning more about the cause of your back pain can help you understand it and find a treatment that fits your lifestyle.

Serving patients in Houston, Henry N. Small, MD, is an expert in diagnosing and treating chronic back pain. Find out more about back pain that develops as you get older, and learn what you can do about it.

Your spine changes as you get older

Your spine holds your body up and is your main source of stability. It’s a complex structure of vertebrae, facets, ligaments, and spinal discs. Spinal degeneration occurs over the years as your bones weaken and discs and joints become less resilient with age.

Spinal degeneration is a common issue for people over the age of 60, and back and neck pain are often the result. Signs of age-related back pain often include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • Pain radiating down one or both legs
  • Pain when bending or lifting
  • Pain when standing or walking for long periods of time

Two leading causes of back pain in older adults are osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that develops when the cartilage between joints wears away over time. Without the protective cartilage, bones grind together and cause pain and inflammation.

Spinal stenosis can develop as a side effect of osteoarthritis. If you have spinal stenosis, your spinal cord or nerve endings get pinched as your spinal column gets narrower. Spinal stenosis can also cause leg pain and make walking very difficult.

Back pain is an inevitable part of growing older, but there’s plenty you can do to relieve pain and maintain the active lifestyle you love.

What to do about age-related back pain

A combination of medical care and lifestyle factors can help you minimize the back pain that comes along with getting older. NSAID medications can minimize inflammation and help you manage the aches and pains of getting older.

A regular physical fitness routine can help keep your spine strong and keep pain at bay. Moving your body helps you maintain your range of motion and helps you recover from episodes of back pain faster. Regular exercise is also an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, which helps prevent back pain.

Physical therapy can also be beneficial for people who suffer from back pain. Structured physical therapy focuses on increasing strength and improving flexibility. Talk to Dr. Small about what type of exercises and stretches can help you manage your age-related back pain.

If you do experience episodes of back pain, applying an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time can calm inflammation. After 2-3 days of icing your back, switch to a heating pad to relax muscles and stimulate blood flow.

For severe back pain, a variety of treatment options are available to minimize pain. Pain management focuses on maintaining your quality of life and helping you continue to enjoy your daily activities.

You shouldn’t have to live with back pain. Let Dr. Small help you find the best type of treatment to manage your age-related back pain. Make an appointment by calling our office today.

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