Over the past few months, we’ve been discussing some of the reasons back pain may occur during various life stages. This month, we look at back pain affecting people in their 60s. Before this decade of life, back pain may be relatively uncommon. The biological and lifestyle changes that may happen in one’s 60s may increase the likelihood of experiencing discomfort. This is not something we want to normalize, though. Believing that back pain is common as we get older may cause us to inadvertently push through discomfort that needs to be treated. Here, we look at some common back pain causes and what you can do to keep your back healthy if you’re at this stage of life.
Degenerative Disc Disease
This common spine condition is one we’ve mentioned before. It can occur anytime during mid-life but does tend to be more common in older adults. Degenerative disc disease develops when the discs that buffer friction wear down due to ongoing pressure and stress on the spine. Wear and tear is the natural degeneration that is often related to excess weight or physically-demanding jobs. One way to minimize the risk of developing degenerative disc disease is to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. In this case, low impact exercise like yoga or moderate strength training may be ideal. Postural improvements and physical therapy can help if discs have shifted to a point at which they are compressing nearby nerves.
As a result of retirement, people in their 60s find themselves with more time on their hands, which they meet with new activities. For some, this decade and the change in activities may come as a reprieve from years working at a laborious job. For others, taking up new hobbies such as golf presents both pros and cons. Staying active is a necessity, as we mentioned in the prevention and management of degenerative disc disease. However, adults must be mindful of how they move their bodies. It is helpful to ease into new physical activities and increase the level of activity gradually, letting the body be the guide.
Menopausal Hormonal Changes
A woman in her 60s has typically been post-menopausal for at least a few years. This stage of life, due to the marked decrease in estrogen levels, presents a number of new health concerns. Without ongoing estrogen production, the body experiences a higher level of bone resorption than formation. Bone tissue is breaking down faster than new bone is generated. This increases the risk of fractures, including spinal fractures. To manage this risk, women in their 60s are encouraged to supplement their diets with calcium and vitamin D, both of which support healthy bone regeneration. Mild to moderate strength training and low impact exercise are also beneficial.
Sometimes, back pain that is noticeable during a person’s 60s has been there for years but has not been addressed. Whenever back pain persists for more than a few weeks, a full examination and consultation is in order. To schedule yours, contact our NYC spine specialty practice at 212-606-1004.