Back pain is a common complaint for a lot of people.
In fact, it is so common, it can be easy to ignore back pain.
Statistically, 80% of adults will complain of back pain in their lifetimes.
For older adults, the pain can be jokingly dismissed as “old age problems”. But is this always the case?
Should we be paying more attention to back pain and what it means for our elderly loved ones’ health?
Just because the pain is common does not mean you have to live with it.
In this post, we will talk about some of the common causes of back pain and how you as a caregiver (or older adult yourself) can keep this problem at bay.
Causes of Back Pain
Back pain may occur for many reasons, including:
- Sharp back pain can occur as a result of lifting heavy objects.
- Traumatic injuries from accidents can also cause back pain.
- Disc degeneration – This happens when the rubbery discs in between the bones of your spine (vertebra) begin to wear away due to old age. Normally, these rubbery discs will support the movement and pressure of the spine. When they wear down, bones begin to rub against each other and stiffness can also happen.
- Herniated or ruptured discs – This happens when the rubbery discs we learned of above protrude or become compressed.
- “Pinched” nerves/Nerve damage – If some some reason the nerves to your spine/back become compressed, this can also contribute to back pain. Inflammation or an injury could cause this.
- Sciatica – This a form of “pinched” nerve that specifically affects the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that travels through the buttocks to the back of the leg.
- Spinal irregularities – Any curvature of the spine can also cause pain.
- Spondylolisthesis – This is a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place, pinching the nerves exiting the spinal column.
- Excessive weight which puts stress on back muscles can also cause back pain.
Most of these causes of back pain are issues that can be handled with at home therapy or with the help of a chiropractor/osteopathic practitioner.
Sometimes however, back pain may simply be a symptom of a much larger problem.
It is always best to check and make sure so any serious condition such as an infection, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia or even cancer of the spine is not responsible for the pain.
Preventing Back Pain
In the case of back pain that is dependent on an existing medical condition, treatment of the condition will usually help to alleviate the pain.
Treatment may involve surgery and prescription medication.
There are simple practices however that can help you or your elderly loved one keep back pain at bay for as long as possible.
- Always stretch before exercise or any strenuous activity.
- Don’t lift heavy objects. If you do need to lift, use proper body mechanics. Instead of bending your back to pick objects up, lower your entire body and lift objects up using your knees as support.
- Do not slouch when you’re sitting or standing.
- Place back support on your chairs to help with posture when you sit.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet to prevent excessive weight gain which can put stress and strain on your back muscles.
- Exercise regularly. This keeps the blood flowing and muscles healthy. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are natural “painkillers” which give people a great sense of well-being.
- Quit smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine. Decreased blood flow to the lower spine can contribute to spinal disc degeneration. Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis and impedes healing. Smoke-induced coughing can cause back pain as well.
As a caregiver, these are all things you can encourage your elderly loved one to do to help prevent back pain and keep a healthy back.
If you found this post useful, please consider sharing it with someone else who needs advice on how to prevent back pain.