Your risk of developing back pain increases as you get older, but that doesn't mean you should accept it as a normal part of aging.
When you know the changes that occur as you age, you can take steps to prevent back pain. And if back pain appears, our team at iMed Regeneration Center offers an array of therapies that alleviate the pain and strengthen your back so you can stay active and healthy.
In this blog, we talk about the most common age-related degenerative changes and the steps you can take to lower your risk of back pain as you get older.
Just like the rest of your body, the structures that make up and support your spine change as you get older. Soft tissues like ligaments and muscles stretch and weaken, often leading to back pain.
You're also more vulnerable to degenerative conditions that develop over the years, such as:
The discs between each vertebra stabilize your spine, support spinal movement, and absorb shock when you move, whether you’re walking, running, jumping, bending, or twisting.
As you get older, wear-and-tear leads to weak areas in the disc’s outer cover. At first, the weak spot allows the inner layer of gel to bulge out from between the vertebrae. Eventually, the disc ruptures, the gel leaks out, and you have a herniated disc.
Once the disc herniates, you end up with back pain because the spine loses stability, the nerves get pinched, and inflammation develops.
Over the years, your spinal discs naturally lose moisture. As they dehydrate, they flatten, become less resilient, and fail to support your spine. You end up with localized back pain and compressed nerves.
The joints that connect vertebrae, called facet joints, are just as susceptible to arthritis as the other joints in your body. In fact, osteoarthritis in the lower back affects 30% of adults over the age of 55.
You could also develop ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory form of spinal arthritis. Both types cause progressive joint damage, back pain, and limited movement.
It's never too late to make changes that delay or prevent degenerative back problems. The same healthy habits also relieve back pain caused by an existing or future condition.
Our top preventive recommendations include:
Excess weight adds tremendous pressure to your lower back. For each pound you gain, you add 4 pounds of pressure to your spine when walking and 8 pounds when running. The extra pressure accelerates disc and facet joint degeneration and forces muscles to work harder.
Exercise strengthens the core muscles supporting your spine. Maintaining muscle strength and flexibility is one of the best ways to avoid painful back problems.
Getting regular exercise is important for easing the pain of any existing back condition, but it's especially beneficial if you have arthritis. In addition to alleviating the pain, exercise slows down joint damage, reduces swelling, and improves movement.
While it's hard to exercise when you're in pain, we can help. We create a regimen of gentle exercises that fit your overall health, teach you about when to rest to protect your back, and give you tips for modifying daily activities that may cause back pain.
Poor posture creates uneven pressure on your spine, forcing some muscles to work harder (causing muscle strain) and pushing vertebrae out of alignment. Bad posture alone causes back pain. It also magnifies the pain of degenerative back conditions.
Ergonomics include good posture but also involve the way you move your body. For example, lifting the wrong way is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Slumping over when you sit also stresses your spine.
When you need help with back pain, we routinely evaluate your posture and recommend exercises or create a physical therapy plan to restore natural posture that supports your spine.
Whether you want to prevent back pain as you get older or need help overcoming an existing problem, call us at iMed Regeneration Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, or book an appointment online today.