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Treating Back Pain in the Elderly

Older adults, compared to the general population, are in many cases under-treated, even though they are more likely to experience pain. They are often treated with pain medication, but older patients are known to handle pain medication differently than younger people. The risk of side effects is higher, as well as of interaction between pain and other medications one uses on a daily basis. Due to these risks, pain should not be treated aggressively. People over the age of 60 often suffer from pain related to degeneration of the spine joints, with conditions such as spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis being the most common causes of lower back pain.

Old Man Back Pain

The spine consists of vertebrae – individual bones stacked one on top of the other – and between each of them are small joints and disks. The joints allow the spine to move, while disks with jellylike centers prevent the bones from rubbing against each other by acting as shock absorbers. The disks between the vertebrae shrink and wear away as we age. This causes stiffness and pain, because the bones start to rub against each other. What also happens over time is the narrowing of the space around our spinal cord, leading to the increase of pressure on the core and spinal nerves. The condition is known as spinal stenosis. Experiencing whiplash or bone breaking sometimes during a lifetime can accelerate the type of arthritis that can cause back pain.

Finding Pain Relief

Back pain, if determinable, can be treated with medications, therapeutic treatments, and surgery.

Medications for back pain relief include: NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), acetaminophen and aspirin, steroids, and narcotics like morphine and codeine.

Therapeutic treatment ways for relieving back pain include: wearing braces (wrapped around the stomach and back), physical therapy (active and passive), restricting certain activities, traction, stress relief (yoga, Pilates, and meditation), and manipulation or chiropractic therapy. If you take care of an elderly family member who experiences back pain, taking an aged care course will prepare you for this and more.

Most common surgical procedures for treating back pain are disk replacement (similar to hip or knee replacement) and spinal fusion (to eliminate the motion between the bone segments).

Prevention Is The Best We Can Do

It is of great importance to prevent ourselves from injuring as we age. When standing or sitting, good posture is essential. Also, maintaining a healthy weight by eating a good diet rich in essential nutrients for bone and joint health, regularly exercising and keeping the abdomen and back flexible and strong, and keeping stress level down is important. You will age better if you have healthy habits.

Back pain should never be ignored, even if you think the cause is aging. It could also represent a sign of a serious, but treatable disease. No matter what your age is, you do not have to live with back pain, so talk to your doctor in order to find the cause of your back pain and to treat it properly.

Older patients are those who most commonly experience spinal stenosis and disk degeneration. However, they are becoming young people problems, as well. Due to overweight problems, bad posture, and long-hours sitting at the computer are causing them to feel back pain by creating an inflammatory process in the entire body.

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