Minor aches and pains are a part of life no matter how old you are. But it seems that they get worse and more frequent with each passing birthday. It’s not your imagination — age is definitely a factor.
The natural wear and tear that happens over time is bound to cause some issues, especially in your back. The bottom line is that some age-related back pain is normal, but you may be able to prevent it or lessen it with the lifestyle choices you make.
It’s important to know exactly what’s causing your back pain so you can treat it quickly and prevent it from progressing. At Peninsula Orthopedic Associates, our orthopedic surgeons, medical doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners specialize in getting to the bottom of your back pain and treating the underlying cause of it. After a thorough examination, our team can let you know if what you’re feeling is the result of normal wear, tear, and age, or something more serious.
How to age-proof your back
It’s one of the laws of nature that everything begins to break down when it gets older. That’s especially true of your back. But there are some things you can do to keep age-related back pain to a minimum.
Regular exercise is essential to your overall health, and it’s one of the best things you can do to keep back pain at bay. Pay special attention to exercises that strengthen your core, as those are the muscles that support your spine and pelvis.
Pay attention to your posture
A lifetime of slouching puts a lot of stress on your spine. If you sit all day at work, it’s important to sit tall and straight.
When you lift, whether it’s a box or a baby, bend your knees, lift with your legs, and don’t twist.
Cigarette smoke constricts blood vessels and reduces the blood flow and nutrients on their way to the discs in your back.
Lose weight and watch what you eat
Being overweight or obese complicates your overall health and increases back pain. The extra pounds put pressure on your joints and spine and speeds up their deterioration.
When adopting a healthier diet to keep your weight under control, make sure your meals include plenty of vitamin D and calcium to keep your bones and muscles strong.
Manage stress and depression
Stress makes your muscles tight and tense, and depression causes fatigue. Both cause aches and pains and make it difficult to get proper exercise. For these reasons, mood disorders can contribute to your back pain.
Age-related back problems
As you age, your back is susceptible to several conditions related to the natural wear and tear that happens over the years. Following the healthy lifestyle outlined above can mitigate the symptoms of these conditions, but it might not make you immune to them. Here are a few of the more common back ailments that occur with age.
Degenerated or herniated discs
In your youth, your back moves freely and without pain because your spine is in peak condition. However, over time, the discs that nestle in between the vertebrae tend to lose fluid, and therefore, they can no longer provide a buffer between your bones, leading to painful rubbing. Herniated discs, those that slip out of place or rupture, also cause back pain.
Age also affects your cartilage, the smooth, rubbery padding that protects the end of your bones in your joints. As the cartilage wears away, your bones rub against one another, causing inflammation and pain known as osteoarthritis.
A common ailment in the elderly is spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal column. When the nerves that live in that space get compressed and pinched, you experience back pain.
Changing bones and muscles
Your back needs strong support to function properly. Sadly, you lose muscle mass and bone density as you age. Weak muscles mean you may not be able to maintain good posture or that you can’t use proper body mechanics when lifting and reaching. Further, when you have brittle bones, they are subject to fractures.
The good news is that even given the inevitable minor aches and pains that come with age, you can avoid the worst of them by taking care of your body throughout your life.
If you have back pain, whether age-related or due to injury or degenerative diseases, we can help. Our team of highly trained experts specializes in every stage of orthopedic care and offers the most advanced technologies and techniques.
Don’t let back pain rob you of the joy of your golden years; call us today to make an appointment at one of our four convenient Bay Area locations.