Proceed With Caution – The Age Old Problem Of An Aching Back

Actress and comedian Bette Midler once said, “After thirty, your body has a mind of its own.” She wasn’t kidding! When I turned thirty, I thought all the complaints and warnings from the golden members of my friends and family were all based on myth to intimidate me about reaching the milestone anniversary of my birth. Then I went on a particularly vigorous hike through the rugged coastline near my home in Halifax and realized that, sadly, my friends and family weren’t kidding with their comments and warnings any more than Bette Midler was when she made the above remark.

I’m not sure I know any adult who hasn’t experienced some kind of back pain, whether it’s from bad posture, poor diet, a spinal condition, or some other problem. But the number one reason for back pain is just plain old getting older. Just like a vehicle develops normal wear and tear as we drive them up and down the highway, our bodies develop normal wear and tear as we drive them up and down the highways of life.

Time Is Not On Our Side

As we age, the disks and vertebrae that make up our spine degenerate. The disks have jello-like centers, but as age causes them to dry out they shrink into nothingness; and the result is that we feel stiff and sore. We feel less like getting up and about, and doing the things we love. It doesn’t take any kind of special activity to cause back pain – the things we do every day contribute to it. Overdoing it by lifting things that are too heavy, getting an overly strenuous workout, or even sitting at a computer at long periods of time – which can cause computer back syndrome, all contribute to lower back pain.

Younger people can get by with an hour of yoga every week to keep their back in shape, but after you turn the corner that is age thirty, you could find yourself needing to take extra precaution to compensate for your aging self. However, there are things you can do to hold off some of the damage. Eat right, exercise regularly, and get annual physical examinations from our family physician to rule out diseases that contribute to lower back pain. And if back pain has set in, there are still things you can do to relieve the twinges before they flare up into some worse problem. Here are the most common ways for the two primary, non-invasive treatments for back pain.

Pharmaceutical Treatment

  • Over the counter pain medications like acetaminophen or aspirin
  • Over the counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Prescription steroids like ones that are taking orally, or others which require injections
  • Narcotics like Percocet, codeine, or vicodin

Physical Treatment

  • Rest, which includes restricting any kind of physical activity like yoga, aerobics, or lifting weights
  • Passive therapies such as alternating heat and ice, or electric stimulation
  • Chiropractic therapy which could include massage to realign bones and joints
  • Use of a hangup inversion table to use gravity to pull the spine back into place
  • Invasive methods for treating back pain include surgeries for procedures such as spinal fusion, or perhaps even whole disk replacement.
physical therapy table

Healthy back inversion table

Prevention is the Key to Unlocking Back Pain

Regardless of whether you are a teenager who plays video games all day, or a retiree who likes to liven up afternoons with a visit to the golf course or shuffleboard court, strive to use good posture. Stay active to prevent putting on the extra pounds. You could even sign up for a yoga class to stay toned and flexible, strengthen your muscles, and improve your respiratory and circulatory systems. After bad posture, not exercising is the number one bad habit that leads to pain in the shoulders, neck, and back.

Another common flaw we humans have is improper lifting. You should always bend your knees and use your leg muscles, and never your back, to lift heavy objects. Keep whatever you’re lifting close to your body to avoid twisting in a way that causes a back injury. And something a lot of people don’t think about as having any relevance to back pain is smoking. Nicotine restricts blood flow, which in turn allows the disks in your back to wear down even faster. It also prevents new growth in bones. And finally, take your vitamins. Just be sure and check with your doctor to make sure what vitamin supplements you need to help make up for what you’re not getting in your daily food intake.

Successful writer Rick Mercado is only in his early thirties, but he’s no stranger to back pain. While he prefers being outdoors as much as possible, his job as an online marketer often requires him to spend long periods of time sitting down on the job, quite literally, in places like his home office or local coffee shop. He really enjoys the writing and research he does for which has taught him so much about preventive measures.

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