01 Sep Helping with Back Pain for the Elderly
The first week of October is Backcare Awareness Week in the UK and Low Back Pain (LBP) is one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults aged 60 years or above. This age group are more likely to suffer from pain related to degeneration of the joints in the spine. Two of the most common causes of lower back pain in older adults include osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. This blog looks at some ways to prevent back pain as we get older and some tips on how to manage any back pain for the elderly.
As we get older our height and gait changes, which means pressure is often put on our spines. On average a person will lose about half an inch of height every 10 years from their peak height. The loss in height becomes more pronounced after the age of 70. A change in height and posture can lead to back pain. Here are some factors that can affect postural changes with age (source muschealth.org):
- Exercise — the more one regularly exercises the more posture can improve.
- Diet — balanced diet with vegetables and fruit with limited red meat can lead to good health.
- Calcium and Vitamin D improve bone density.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Do not smoke.
- Behavioural changes of purposefully maintaining erect posture.
Coping with back pain
These tips can help you with your back pain:
- Be more physically active – There is a saying that “motion is lotion” for the back. If you can keep moving, you’ll recover quicker from any episodes of back pain.
- Apply cold – If you find you are suddenly in pain with your back, reach for an ice pack first when the pain initially strikes. Applying ice with 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off can help reduce any inflammation or muscle spasms. If you don’t have an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas will also do the trick!
- Apply heat – If the pain continues, consider using a heating pad and taking warm baths. This can relax your back muscles and stimulate blood flow. Once the heat source is removed it is a good idea to gently stretch the warmed muscles to prevent further muscle spasm.
- Take medication – If you have been prescribed medicine for a bad back, please ensure you take it regularly and as directed by your doctor. Often you will be advised to take the medicine even if you are feeling better. Anti inflammatory medicines will help to keep any pain under control.
- Rest – Whilst we are encouraging you to keep active, getting enough rest is also important. However, remember to keep gently stretching, especially after resting. Ageing tends to slow our recovery from injuries. If your back “goes out,” gentle stretching is superior to bed rest. Any bed rest beyond 48 hours can increase the duration and intensity of back pain, and slow the pace of your recovery.
If you have any questions about caring for an elderly relative with back pain, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.