Is growing older giving you back pain? This all-too-common part of aging doesn't have to be a daily struggle, if you identify your back pain symptoms and treat them properly.
As much as we try to fight the symptoms of aging, some foes are greater than others to battle – which is definitely the case with back pain. The majority of Americans experience lower back pain at some point, and a small percentage develop chronic back pain lasting more than three months.
Back pain doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of the aging process. By understanding the different types of back pain, what causes them and what your treatment options are, you can take great strides in stopping back pain from taking over your life.
Types of Back Pain
Lower back pain is the most common, typically with symptoms like shooting or stabbing pain in the lower back. They resolve on their own after a few days. However, this type can be severe enough to limit your mobility, range of motion or even prevent you from standing up straight. In some cases, the pain can radiate to other parts of the body, such as the hips or legs. If the pain lasts for more than three months, it is considered chronic back pain.
A spinal problem in your upper back can also contribute to back pain symptoms. This type is accompanied by neck pain and it can radiate to the shoulders and upper arms as well.
Causes of Back Pain
There are a host of factors. Sometimes, muscles lose elasticity, bones lose strength or the spine loses cushioning as you age, which may lead to lower back pain. Medical conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, viral infections and other diseases are also contributors.
Injuries are another common cause of lower back pain. If you’re in an accident or simply lift something that’s too heavy, you can strain your spine and cause a disc to rupture or bulge outward. This puts pressure on your back and the nerves within it.
Risk factors like smoking, inactivity, being overweight, stress, poor posture and poor sleeping habits can further increase your chances of developing back pain.
Treating Back Pain
In the past, standard medical advice may have been to rest until you feel better. We now know that you should never lie in bed for longer than one or two days. Although a little painful at first, research shows exercise might be the most effective method for treating lower back pain. Strengthening the back and abdominal muscles can reinforce your lower back and prevent future pain.
There are some risks involved in exercising when you have back pain, and it’s important to start with gentle, low-impact exercises to prevent further damage. Discuss treatment options with your doctor and work with a physical therapist to determine the right exercises for you.
In some cases, medicine might be necessary for treating back pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen, or a topical pain reliever can reduce inflammation and stimulate blood flow. Stronger medications might be necessary for severe pain.
Some alternative therapies for pain might be worth a look – chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback and ultrasound.
Most types of lower back pain don’t require surgery. Plus, invasive back surgery is not always successful. If your doctor recommends surgery to treat your lower back pain, it’s very important to weigh the pros and cons of the procedure before making a decision.