The Elderly and Back Pain

As you get older, your body begins to wear out. Older people require increased medical attention and are increasingly susceptible to disease. There’s also an increase in general pain in the limbs, joints, and particularly the back. The connection between the elderly and back pain can’t be denied, and it’s often the cause of mobility problems and other issues.

The causes of back pain in older people tend to be different than what they are for the young, and as such, they require different treatments. In younger people, the problem is often to do with distortion of the discs between the vertebrae. As you get older, distortion is less likely due to loss of water content in the discs. However, there is a general degeneration of the lower back, and other problems that go along with it.

Here are some of the most common causes of back pain in the elderly.

• Uncomplicated Mechanical Low Back Pain. The most common type of back pain in the elderly, this is pain that’s not associated with any particular disease or ailment. It’s generally just a symptom of the body wearing out over time, and is made worse by bending, stretching, and walking. Fortunately, this can generally be treated just with rest, and by finding a more comfortable sleeping position.

• Osteoporosis. One of the most common connections between the elderly and back pain, osteoporosis is a decrease in bone mineral density that makes the bones more fragile and prone to breaking. It most commonly affects women over 75, though it can affect men as well. It can cause compression failure, i.e. a collapse of the vertebrae. The symptoms are sudden back pain, as well as shooting pain due to compression of the nerve. The most common treatment is a back brace that allows the bones time to heal, as well as certain drugs such as calcitonin. In certain cases, minimally invasive surgical treatments may also be used.

• Sciatica. Sciatica affects the lower back and can radiate down one leg as well. It involves a compression or irritation of the sciatic nerves. In addition to the pain, other symptoms include tingling and numbness, as well as difficulty moving the lower body. It can be caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal, or degeneration of the lower vertebrae, both of which tend to happen over time and are thus more common in the elderly. Depending on the type of sciatica and the cause, medication may be prescribed, or simply rest and some physical therapy. In other cases, laser spinal surgery may be used to treat it, or sometimes cortisone injections.

When dealing with the elderly and back pain, it’s important to be on guard. When you’re younger, lower back pain may take you out of work for a day or two, but after a bit of rest, it can be as good as new. In the elderly, any form of back pain warrants attention. It might be nothing. But if left untreated, it can end up causing permanent damage.