5 things you must do to prevent back pain as you age

Low back pain (LBP) is one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults. While most causes of LBP among older adults are non-specific and self-limiting, as you age, you are prone to develop certain LBP pathologies and/or chronic LBP given their age-related physical and psychosocial changes. Existing evidence suggests that prevalence rates of severe and chronic LBP increase with older age.

“As compared to working-age adults, older adults (60+ years of age) are more likely to develop LBP due to osteoporotic vertebral fractures, tumors, spinal infection, and lumbar spinal stenosis. While working–age adults face various age-related physical, psychological, and mental changes that can result in LBP,” said Dr Manan Vora, sports medicine expert and orthopedic surgeon.

As your spine ages, you may start feeling some aches and pains. Back pain can develop as you age, and here’s what you can do about it.

Exercise and physical therapy

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes per day or moderately intense aerobic exercise five days per week. The inclusion of so-called weight-bearing exercise, along with calcium and vitamin D supplementation, is a critical component to combat the development of bone loss and/or osteoporosis, which can weaken the spine and put you at risk for a broken hip or a spinal fracture.

A rehabilitation program that combines muscular strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness is beneficial for non-specific chronic LBP. Increasing core muscular strength can assist in supporting the lumbar spine. Improving the flexibility of the muscle-tendons and ligaments in the back increases the range of motion and assists with functional movement. “Aerobic exercise increases the blood flow and nutrients to the soft tissues in the back, improving the healing process and reducing stiffness that can result in back pain,” said Dr Vora.

Do workout! (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Maintaining ideal body weight

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of back pain. Excess weight also tends to prolong the recovery period after episodes of back pain. Every extra pound of weight adds strain to the muscles and ligaments of the back. To compensate for extra weight, the spine tends to become tilted and stressed unevenly. Excess stomach weight typically pulls the pelvis forward (increasing lumbar lordosis), leading to aggravated LBP, described Dr Vora.

heat therapy

LBP is commonly related to muscle spasms or stiffness from osteoarthritis. “Application of a heat pack will relax muscles and increase the range of motion of the lower back, quickly addressing both spasms and stiffness,” Dr Vora said.

stop smoking

Numerous studies show a link between cigarette smoking and back pain. Smoking damages your arteries, and it is thought that the damaged arteries in the discs and joints in your back may lead to pain and injury. Smoking also increases your risk for osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that can lead to back pain.

Correct your posture

When you practice proper posture, you keep your bones and joints in alignment. This decreases the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces, reduces stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together and allows your muscles to work more efficiently. Additionally, the spine is made for motion, and when sitting in any type of office chair (even an ergonomic office chair) for long periods of time, it is best to get up, stretch, and move around regularly throughout the day to recharge stiff muscle.

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