Is Back Pain an Inevitable Part of Aging?

Just like your car, the older your body gets, the more likely you are to lose functionality. But also just like your car, the better care you take of it when it’s young, the better chance you have of avoiding the aches and pains of aging.

Dr. Bonaventure Ngu at Premier Spine Institute knows all about the myriad causes of back pain and how to help you avoid many of them. Although aging does complicate most physical issues, it’s not always the primary cause. 

Back pain caused by aging

Many things can cause your back pain regardless of your age. Injuries, strained muscles, sprained ligaments, and spinal irregularities are just a few of the most common culprits. While all of these are more likely to develop the older you are, your age is not the primary cause of them. 

However, the simple truth is that you can expect to lose some flexibility and functionality in all your body parts as you age. Here’s what age may do to your back.

Disc degeneration

Your spine is designed to bend and twist by relying on the bony vertebrae and the jelly-like discs in between them. As you age, those discs wear out and lose their cushiony protection. When bones rub on bones, you have back pain.

Narrowed spinal column

Another way age affects your back is that your spine begins to narrow. This is called spinal stenosis. Over time, the shrinking spinal column begins to press against the nerves that pass through, which causes pain.

Osteoarthritis

Although osteoarthritis (OA) does not affect the elderly exclusively, most people over 60 have it to some degree. That’s because OA is the result of wear and tear of your cartilage over the years. Once that slippery cushion inside your joints deteriorates, as is common in older people, you get joint stiffness and pain.

Weak muscles and bones

Age also robs you of your youthful strength. As you lose muscle mass and your bones lose density, your back loses its support system. That means that your muscles and skeletal system may be working differently than they were designed to, which causes aches and pains.

Ways to avoid age-related back pain

Now the good news: Most age-related back pain can be prevented or lessened by following some basic guidelines.

Keep a strong core

Your core muscles are in your torso and keep your pelvis, abdomen, and back working together to support your body. A strong core contributes to good balance and stability and allows you to perform normal daily activities such as lifting, bending, and reaching without back pain.

Eat right

Believe it or not, your diet plays a big role in your back health. Make sure you consume enough vitamin D and calcium for strong bones and muscles. 

If you’re overweight, commit to losing those excess pounds, as they put extra stress on your spine and joints.

Position yourself properly

Lifting wrong is one of the most common causes of back pain and injuries. To keep your back in good shape, lift with your legs, keep your spine straight, and never twist while lifting. Keep whatever you’re lifting close to your body. 

Position is important while you’re seated as well. Maintain proper posture and make it a habit to sit up straight without slouching. Over time, slumping will damage your back and cause pain. This is often attributed to age, but it’s actually preventable.

Your sleep position matters, too. Get a good mattress with plenty of support.

Quit smoking

Smoking hinders the blood flow in your spine and may block critical nutrients from getting to your discs. If you have an injury, smoking slows the healing process. 

Manage your mood

Emotional and mental stress show up as tight, sore muscles. Reducing stress in your life or finding ways to relieve stress will improve your back pain.

Depression is another pain in the back. Primarily, it causes fatigue, and fatigue may prevent you from exercising and strengthening your core. A weakened musculoskeletal system puts you at risk for back pain.

You can’t eliminate all age-related back pain, but you can certainly avoid much of it by taking care of yourself.

If you’re already experiencing back pain, come see Dr. Ngu at Premier Spine Institute for a complete evaluation. He specializes in getting to the root cause of your pain and treating it in the safest, most effective manner. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, send us a message here on our website, or request a consultation online to get started on the road back to a pain-free back.

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