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4 Ways to Address Back Pain in Older Adults

February 3, 2022

By Avery Skyler

Pain is one of the most common medical conditions that Americans experience, and older populations can often suffer from persistent and severe cases. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) revealed that back pain is prevalent among Americans, with about 39% of adults suffering from it. Unfortunately, the NCHS also reports that adults aged 65 and above make up most of the patients experiencing back pain due to their musculoskeletal system’s degenerative wear and tear.

It can become more difficult to deal with back pain as you get older. This could be because of the loss of moisture in your bones, the narrowing of your spinal canal, or the weakening of your muscles. However, it’s still possible to alleviate pain symptoms through different methods, a few of which we’ll outline below.

Relieve acute back pain with a compress

You may sometimes experience back pain due to simple activities like shopping, cleaning, or gardening. In these cases, you need to apply an ice compress over the affected area as soon as you feel pain. Simply leave this on for twenty minutes to reduce the inflammation or muscle spasms on your back. You can then repeat the process after twenty minutes of rest to prevent the onset of further pain.

If your back is still in pain after two days, you’ll need to apply heat over the area. A warm compress or even a warm bath can go a long way in relaxing your muscles and improving the blood flow in your back.

Strengthen your body through proper exercise

If your back pain persists after you’ve applied a compress, try exercising. It may seem counterintuitive to get moving when you’re feeling pain. Still, our very own Dr. Justin Field highlighted that an inactive lifestyle induces back pain by weakening your back muscles.

The tension on your back and the compression of your joints will continue. They could even worsen unless you improve circulation and back muscle strength through exercise. Older adults can start with low-impact and gentle exercise programs to avoid injuries and strains. Ensure that you’re not overwhelming your body with high-intensity and fast workout programs, which could only worsen your situation or lead to injury.

Seek treatments from a medical professional

Consulting with a medical professional can make a difference, as they can run diagnostic tests to identify the specific causes of your back pain and find the appropriate solution for your case. Your diagnosis will likely start with an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, as they are experienced in conducting primary and acute care diagnoses. On top of diagnostic skills, NPs can also recommend and aid in holistic treatments to alleviate pain. You may also be referred to orthopedic surgeons after your diagnosis. These specialists can conduct spinal or trauma surgeries, as well as non-invasive procedures to address the cause of your pain.

Consider alternative medicine treatments

With the approval of your primary care provider, you can also try alternative medical treatments to lessen the intensity of your back pain. Holistic treatments like acupuncture have significantly improved the outcomes of patients suffering from chronic pain. In fact, the president of the California Acupuncture Association, Michael L. Fox, pointed out that many acupuncturists undergo specialized training programs in treating back and neck pain. Other physicians in the field even choose to go into further studies to become well-versed in Western and Traditional Chinese medicine and thus provide patients with a range of treatment options.

Conclusion

Back pain may be common among older adults, but you don’t have to suffer without relief. There are quick and effective home remedies for acute cases, while specialists can assist you in treating more severe conditions.

For orthopedic and spinal care help, visit leading care provider the Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC), or contact us online to set an appointment.

senior woman with back pain on the beach

Photo Credit: Pexels


About the Author: Living with a chronic pain condition herself, Avery Skyler has long advocated for healthier lifestyles. She writes articles with a focus on health and wellness to share what she’s learned about pain, recovery, and fitness from personal experience.

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