Most people will experience back pain at some point in their lives (60-80% according to WHO) and it is one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults. Many causes of low back pain are age-related, simply due to the physical changes that happen to our bodies, as well as how we have used them over the years. Poor posture is a major contributing factor to the wear-and-tear of the spine as we age, and other factors include; weight, diet, overuse, health conditions and specific spinal diseases. ‘Existing evidence suggests that prevalence rates of severe and chronic low back pain increase with older age.’ (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
What is wear-and-tear?
Typically, as a person ages, the discs between their vertebrae dehydrate (lose their plumpness), at the same time the cartilage within the spinal joints thins. Cartilage has a slow metabolism and when constantly put under pressure (from over-use or poor posture) it wears down quicker than it can repair. These changes cause instability of the spinal joint/s meaning the back is prone to injury. Trying to stabilise itself, the body will over-use certain muscles (which can lead to pain), as well as lay down extra bone tissue, causing the joint/s to become nodular and rough. When bone meets bone (as a result of the degenerative changes), the result is pain, commonly known as arthritis. If a person has suffered an injury to their spine, through a trauma such as a fall or car accident, this could accelerate the onset of arthritis.
Can wear-and-tear be prevented?
Although trauma injuries can’t be prevented, we can all improve our spinal health. ‘Motion is medicine’….. staying active/mobile is a key factor in maintaining your spinal health. Combining regular exercise with good posture, your back and body will age better. Diet and hydration will also have an impact, because ‘you are what you eat!’.
How to manage back pain
Reduce the activities that induce or worsen the pain (such as lifting or sitting). Seek professional advice. A chiropractor is a spinal specialist and will assess, diagnose and treat your particular condition. Osteopaths, physiotherapists, massage therapists and many other professionals also treat back pain issues. After getting your condition under control, maintain good back health by incorporating regular massage (to keep your muscles in optimal condition), chiropractic (to keep your joints in good health) and exercise (such as yoga or pilates to improve your posture) into your lifestyle. See our tips below.
Additional treatments for chronic back pain
Medication – be aware that taking pain killers, will simply mask the pain, they are not treating the issue.
MBST magnetic resonance therapy – offers pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties and cell-regeneration. MBST is a non-invasive treatment which stimulates cartilage cells to function optimally, encouraging the regeneration of damaged cartilage and disc tissue.
Steroid injections – if you are not seeing any improvement from manual therapy and exercise, injections would be a possible option for pain reduction, but like pain killers they are not addressing the cause of the issue.
Surgery would be a final option in severe cases.
Tips for good spine health:
• Posture – maintain good posture during all activities, sitting, standing, exercising (think tall, core engaged, shoulders back and down, neck long)
• Move – avoid sitting or standing still for extended periods of time and break repetitive activities
• Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated
• Keep your weight gain to a minimum
• Regular exercise (aerobic and strength, along with focus on core and flexibility)
• Routine health care appointments (monthly massage or chiropractic treatment)