It only stands to reason that the older you get, the more at risk you become for back pain. However, even though the elderly have a greater chance of developing painful spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis, the connection between advancing age and back pain isn’t necessarily that simple.
Actually, it has more to do with the kind of activity you are involved in and at what point in your life.
For example, a person tends to have the most active daily lifestyle between the ages of 30 and 50. It is in this stage that one is likely to be working, raising a family, and participating in fitness or sports activities. Due to these factors, a middle-aged adult is actually highly at risk of sustaining a back or neck injury.
Herniated Disc in Middle Age
In fact, a common source of back pain during middle age is a herniated disc. That’s because your discs are still filled with fluid, and when the outer fibers of the disc tear or rupture, the liquid can leak onto a nearby spinal nerve root.
When this occurs, it usually causes compression, irritation, and significant pain. It is only after age 50 when you become less active that the risk of injuring a disc decreases.
Degenerative Back Conditions
Of course, there are other sources of back pain that increase as you get older and as degenerative changes in your body start to take effect. These changes invariably contribute to deterioration in at least one – if not more – areas of your spine.
A major cause of age-related back pain is muscle mass decrease, otherwise known as sarcopenia. This starts at approximately 30 years of age and continues at a rate of about 2 percent per year, well into your senior years. With the loss of muscle mass, you lose strength, which progressively places added stress on your spine.
In addition, your discs lose water as you age. Without this lubrication, the discs may become brittle with a loss of cushioning for your spinal joints. There are also arthritic changes in the vertebrae that can occur, leading to spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal.
Of course, you can develop muscle imbalances that result in back spasms or back injury at any age based on factors such as your posture habits, movement bio-mechanics, or the strength and flexibility of your muscles. That’s why it’s important to maintain a regular fitness plan designed to strengthen and stretch all your muscle groups to help prevent, manage, or even reverse back pain problems.
That goes for seniors as well. It’s never too late for seniors to slow down, stop, or reverse the progression of many age-related spinal changes – including sarcopenia – simply with regular exercise. However, consult with your physical therapist or doctor first to ensure that the exercises you’d like to do are actually beneficial for your own body.
Spine Surgeon in Maryland
The physicians and spinal specialists at the Spine Academy of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland can help maintain or restore the health and strength of your back. Call us at (410) 644-1880 today or submit our online form to request an appointment. We can help reduce your back pain so you can enjoy a more pain-free lifestyle.