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Dealing with Chronic Back Pain in Your 70s and Beyond

By Lex Gonzales August 26, 2022 Health and Fitness

As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes. One common change that many of us experience is back pain.

Back pain is a very common issue for older adults. In fact, a study that looked into the literature published from January 1985 to October 2018 found that the incidence of back pain among the elderly population can be as high as 75%.

The study also found out that about 80% of adults over the age of 50 will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

What Causes Back Pain Among the 70-Year-Olds?

Now, there are a number of things that can contribute to back pain as we age.

The most common causes of back pain among the 70-year-old age group include degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and osteoporosis.

These conditions often result in a loss of muscle strength and flexibility which can lead to pain. Additionally, as we age, we may not be as active as we once were and this can also lead to back pain.

What Back Pain Symptoms Are Common in This Age Group?

Back pain symptoms can vary from person to person, but many of my 70-year-old and older patients report some common symptoms including dull or sharp pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving.

Many times they would report the pain occurring in the area in the lower back and feeling like a dull ache. For some, the pain may or may not change with movement, but it can be worsened by standing or staying in one position for long periods of time.

A majority of my patients report increased back stiffness or difficulty getting up from the bed in the morning.

What Symptoms Should You Look Out for?

In some cases, back pain symptoms can be a sign of a serious health issue. For example, if your back pain is accompanied by fever, unexplained weight loss, or unrelenting constant pain that interferes with your sleep.

We call these symptoms “red flags” as they can indicate a more serious medical condition including cancer, abdominal aortic aneurysm, spinal infection, or cauda equina syndromes.

These serious medical conditions could present with symptoms that could be mistaken for low back pain. If you are experiencing “red flag” symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor right away.

How to Keep Your Spine Young

As we age, it’s not uncommon to start experiencing chronic back pain. This is often due to the fact that our spines begin to degenerate and lose their elasticity. However, there are things we can do to help keep our spines healthy and youthful.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure you’re maintaining good posture. This will help to take some of the pressure off of your spine.
  2. Try to avoid sitting or standing in one position for too long. This can put strain on your spine and lead to pain.
  3. Exercise regularly. This helps to strengthen the muscles around your spine and can improve your overall flexibility.
  4. Stretch regularly. Stretching helps to keep your muscles from becoming tight and can help you to move more easily.
  5. Be sure to sleep on a supportive mattress so that your spine is properly supported and aligned while you sleep.

Finally, if you are looking for practical information on how to prevent and treat chronic low back pain in a clearly defined framework you can follow at home, check out my book Back Pain Unlocked for a comprehensive solution.

Do you experience chronic back pain? Have you noticed certain symptoms that you didn’t notice before you were younger? What tips have helped you to maintain good spinal health and alleviate back pain?

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Marie

Here’s a link to the Mayo Clinic with back exercises. These have helped me a lot!
https://tinyurl.com/5n6e7yuy

Wendy Hewgill

Thanks, Marie. I do these exercises every day , 🙂

Wendy Hewgill

Has anyone purchased the book by this articles author? Is it helpful or informative at all, or is it just another needless purchase?

Lex Gonzales

Hi Wendy,

Here’s an Amazon link so you can take a look at some of the readers’ reviews: https://amzn.to/3QY9nP6

Stay healthy and live fully,
Lex

Mary T. Lynch

I’m in my 70s and I find the best thing for back pain was walking every day. When I was working full-time from 9 to 5 and sitting at my desk my back pain was sometimes awful.

Lex Gonzales

Great insight Mary!

In fact, in my book BACK PAIN UNLOCKED, I shared the findings of a team of researchers in 2017 who did a systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing scientific studies and found out that, “Pain, disability, fear-avoidance, and quality of life all IMPROVED with a walking program.”

Keep on walking, Mary!

Charles Quinn

I agree. I developed chronic back pain for which I saw a physical therapist for 1 month. I faithfully did the stretches and exercises that I was given and also found that walking helped a lot (sometimes it hurt while I was walking but would feel much better the next day). It took 2 years but I made a full recovery and now 4 years later I am still pain free thanks to regular stretching, exercise, and walking.

The Author

Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT received his degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in the USA. He has been a physiotherapist for over 24 years with a special interest in the geriatric or older adult population. Visit him at drlexgonzales.com.

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