As you age, so too does your spine, leading to inevitable back pain and in some instances, debilitation. This is a frustrating inevitability of getting older, but we have some of the best elderly back pain solutions to share with you.
Even if your spine has degraded to the point simple tasks like walking the dog, doing dishes, gardening, or even getting out of the bed are hindering you, there is likely a treatment method you just haven’t tried yet.
We’ll cover all this in the coming paragraphs. Before we get to that, though, we want to share a quick refresher on the anatomy of your spine, and discuss why its notorious for breaking down with age.
Why does your spine break down with age?
The best analogy for a spine is comparing it to a vehicle. You can take great care of it (or even not that great care of it), and avoid most issues early on.
Aside from routine maintenance, oil changes, the occasional flat tire, your new car won’t cause you much grief for the first 50,000 miles.
But, no matter how well you maintain it, it will eventually start having problems once you surpass 100,000 miles. Things just start to go wrong over time, and the same goes for your spine.
As you grow up and go through your 20s, 30s, and in some instances, even your 30s, you may not experience any limitations from your spine at all, with no signs of pain.
But, the 40s is typically where we see a spike in spine related issues. The cases of back pain only increase as you age from there.
Spine anatomy and terminology
Before we get into some of the best methods of back pain relief for elderly folks, we want to cover the basic anatomy of the spine along with some common terms to help you have a better understanding of what we’re talking about.
The spine is a network of individual bones, which are referred to as vertebrae. These stack on top of one another, connected by small joints which allow for movement of the spine. This is how we are able to twist and turn our back.
Between each vertebrae is a disk. These disks act as shock absorbs, and prevent vertebrae to vertebrae contact. Over time your disks deteriorate from having to protect your vertebrae, and this will lead to back pain.
The degradation of your spine can cause serious pain on its own. But, it can also lead to a variety of other issues, some of the most common being:
- Spinal stenosis
It may be seriously frustrating and concerning learning that back pain is almost unavoidable in most cases. But, many people are able to manage their back pain in old age just fine, and function normally.
Before we cover our favorite remedies for back pain in old age, we want to talk about why we think surgery is usually not a great idea.
Why surgery is not an optimal elderly back pain treatment option
There is no doubt that back surgery has some success cases. But, it is usually not the best route for most people.
There are a few reasons why we don’t recommend back surgery for elderly. Usually, the recovery is incredibly tough and strenuous.
Younger people may be able to recover from back surgery, but the elderly will have a tough time with the rehabilitation process. It can take up to 12 months to return to normal daily activity, with a success rate of around 50% for the elderly.
It’s also incredibly expensive, and the last thing you want to spend your retirement money on. On average, back surgery in the US can cost you 6 figures.
That same $100,000 could provide you years and years of the best physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage work there is!
Our advice is to give some of these elderly back pain solutions we are about to share a good, honest effort. Try as many as you can for a solid length of time to really see the benefits.
If after that your condition does not improve, it may be worth it to have a discussion with a surgeon or your doctor to assess the viability of surgery.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the most beneficial elderly back pain solutions.
The top elderly back pain solutions
We’ll start with the easiest elderly back pain treatment options you can try from the comfort of your own home, before moving into more involved treatment methods.
Apply hot and cold compresses
This is a treatment option that renders the greatest benefits if you a sudden injury occurs. If you have been dealing with back pain for a long time, it will still help, but not to the same degree as if you were to start right after an injury.
Start with ice when back pain first pops up. The best recipe is 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off a few times a day. This will cease spasms in your back, while working to clear up inflammation.
A few days after your injury, you can switch things p and add a heating pad. The warmth will loosen up your muscles and increase blood flow to the injury site, promoting healing.
We’ll talk more about stretching in a moment, but you should always use a warm compresses to heat your back prior to stretching. This will increase the flexibility of your muscles and decrease the risk of further injury.
Take daily walks to get your body moving
You may have heard the saying “motion is lotion” before, which speaks to how your body will feel and move better if you, well, move it!
Taking walks on a daily basis will do wonders to clear up back pain, by strengthening your core muscles and getting more blood flowing.
This may not be an option upon first injuring your back, as rest is the priority. But, the sooner you can get up and about, the better. If you don’t, your back will not start healing and you’ll become stiffer and stiffer by the day.
Stretching your back pain away
Perhaps one of the greatest elderly back pain solutions is stretching. This is best done after heating your back, and after the initial rest period following your back injury. Here is why stretching works:
When you injury your spine or any other component of your back, everything tenses up. This is called “guarding”, and is the bodies natural reaction to an injury. By tightening up the area where you feel pain, your body will protect it from further pain.
Stretching the muscles in your back opens this back up, getting blood and nutrients to the muscles that need them most. We’ll cover a bit more on stretching at the end, but here are some of the top stretches for back pain in elderly:
- Passive backbend
- Seated twist
- Cobra pose
- Thread the needle
Medication for back pain relief for elderly
You are likely wondering if you should reach for the bottle of ibuprofen or tylenol to relieve your old age related back pain.
While you shouldn’t use any sort of pain medication as a crutch, there are some instances where antiinflammatories such as ibuprofen can render effective.
Make sure you talk with a doctor before taking anything, but to clear up inflammation, you can take NSAID’s a few times a day for a few days.
Professional back pain treatment options for old age
The remedies above can all be done from the comfort of your own home. But, if they don’t do the trick, you may need to seek out a professional back pain treatment option.
Some of the best are acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy. But, some people also report success using more advanced elderly back pain solutions, such as nerve blocks, steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation, and spinal cord stimulators.
If you’ve never done acupuncture before, the sight of it may freak you out or leave you with the impression that it’s some sort of witch doctor practice.
But, inserting fine needles into certain points in your skin can trigger healing, and lead to tremendous relief of your old age related back pain.
Chiropractors specialize in manipulating the spine, and can do wonders to help your back pain. The chiropractor can help align your spine, and leave you feeling completely renewed.
This treatment option is one where you need to consistently go to keep receiving the benefits, but it can really help.
If we had to choose just one back pain treatment for old age, it would likely be this one.
Physical therapists use a number of different modalities to help provide back pain relief for elderly folks, including exercise, stretching, massage, heat/ice, and more.
This is an ongoing therapy, and starts by helping you heal the injury, and then strengthening the area around the injury.
Nerve blocks and steroid injections
If all else fails, the focus shifts from treating your injury and recovering, to just limiting pain and increasing mobility.
In this instance, nerve blocks and steroid injections may be a good option to provide back pain relief for elderly folks.
They do exactly what they sound like – the nerve block and steroids will reduce pain and inflammation at the site of your injury. But, the relief will likely be short lived, and you’ll have to constantly return for more.
This is an incredibly advanced option, and only works for carefully selected patients. In this treatment option, a carefully guided needle will be inserted into your back to block painful nerve signals using a high-frequency current.
While it sounds crazy, this can provide back pain relief for elderly people for up to 9 months when successful!
Spinal cord stimulators
The final back pain treatment for old age we want to highlight is using spinal cord stimulators. This is another interesting method that involves stimulation a portion of your spinal cord in hopes of changing the perception of pain.
These are similar to a pacemaker, in that they continuously work to mask or divert pain signals, preventing them from reaching your brain.