Cracking the Case of Lower Back Pain
Back pain is a common complaint among older adults, often due to natural age-related changes in the structure and strength of the spine. The effects of a lifetime of gravity, wear and tear, and possibly injuries add up over time, contributing to conditions that may cause pain and discomfort. While it can be a significant barrier to enjoying a high quality of life in one’s golden years, there are numerous strategies that can help manage and even alleviate it.
As people age, the likelihood of experiencing back pain increases, in part due to factors like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and pressure in the spine. And our modern lifestyle doesn’t help. Many of us work long hours sitting at a computer desk, and that can be bad for our posture, causing or worsening existing back pain.
It’s also worth noting that fractures due to osteoporosis can cause severe back pain. Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the weakening of bones, increases the risk of fractures, and these fractures can occur in the spine, leading to significant back pain.
Not all back pain in older adults is an inevitable part of aging, and many treatment options can help manage or relieve it. Non-surgical interventions such as physical therapy, pain medication, and lifestyle modifications are often the first line of treatment. Exercise and physical therapy can strengthen the back muscles, improve mobility, and alleviate pain. Regular exercise also improves overall health and can help prevent further back problems.
Prescription or over-the-counter pain medications can help manage more severe or persistent back pain. However, older adults should use these medications cautiously due to potential side effects, including gastrointestinal problems and an increased risk of falls due to drowsiness or dizziness. Keep a log of your symptoms and consult your healthcare provider about the safest and most effective treatment options. (Note: if back pain is severe and sudden, or accompanied by fever, chills, loss of bowel or bladder control, don’t wait — call the doctor right away.)
Lifestyle modifications are another significant aspect of managing back pain in older adults. This can include maintaining a healthy weight to reduce strain on the back, quitting smoking, and improving sleep habits. Additionally, practicing good posture can help prevent back pain, and when lifting heavy objects, proper form can help avoid back injuries.
In some cases, if the pain is severe and other treatments are ineffective, surgical interventions may be considered. However, any surgery carries risks, and it’s especially important for older adults to weigh these risks against the potential benefits.
Professional in-home care can support whatever choice you or a loved makes when it comes to treating lower back pain. If you do choose surgery, in-home caregivers can assist with chores while you recover or provide transportation to and from physical therapy appointments. If you choose to treat your pain without surgery, in-home caregivers can support you in non-invasive treatments such as icing, as well as help you make lifestyle changes that alleviate the strain on your spine. Whatever option you choose to manage your pain, in-home care has your back.