Back pain is an extremely common problem for people of all ages with an estimated 80% of Americans expected to experience it at some point in their lives. And unfortunately, this pain becomes even more likely when you are approaching your senior years.
Which is bad news as persistent back pain can have a massive impact on your health, well-being and overall quality of life.
So, you need to box clever as you get older by making a few small lifestyle adjustments to keep your back healthy and happy. And the following 4 things will all help you to do that.
Staying active is one of the best things you can do for the health of your back, as moving your body and getting regular exercise will:
- Strengthen your muscles and keep them in a good condition to be able to provide support for your spine.
- Make you more flexible which will help you to maintain a healthy posture and take the pressure and strain off your lower back.
- Increase circulation which helps to deliver the blood, oxygen and nutrients that your muscles and spinal discs need to stay healthy.
- Encourage the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural painkiller.
So, it makes sense to get into and maintain a regular exercise routine as you get older. But don’t worry because when I say exercising, I’m not suggesting running marathons. Instead just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-4 times per week can make all the difference.
And the good news is there are a wealth of exercise options that are perfect for seniors such as going for a nice walk to get your body moving or taking a senior yoga class to keep your muscles stretched out and flexible.
Or you could try the pool instead as the buoyancy of the water makes exercise easier on the body by taking the pressure off your muscles and joints. So, going for a swim or taking a water aerobics class are both great ways of staying fit and avoiding back pain. And they’re fun too!
So don’t fall into the sedentary trap as you get older and make sure you remain active instead.
Be Wary of Sitting for Too Long
As we get older, we tend to spend more time sitting down. And there’s no doubt it can feel great to take a load off and give your aching joints and muscles a rest.
However, you need to make sure you’re not stuck in a chair for too long. As sitting for prolonged periods can be a major cause of back pain because:
- When you sit your vertebrae become compressed which can lead to a weakening of your spinal discs and less protection for your back.
- While your core muscles also weaken from the inactivity, meaning they can’t support your spine as well so your lower back comes under increasing pressure and strain.
So, if you find that your back is feeling stiff and sore from sitting down for too long each day you need to do something about it. And there are a couple of things that will really help.
Firstly, make sure you take regular microbreaks from sitting. So, get up out of your chair for 5-10 minutes each hour and get your body moving by having a stretch or walking around. As this will get your blood pumping, help your spine to decompress, and relieve any tension that has been building up in your lower back.
And another thing you can do is to get yourself a chair with good pressure relieving qualities. As an ergonomic one that can be adjusted to fit you, has good lumbar support, and where you can change the height, tilt and angle will help to take the strain off your back. And these chairs make it easier to maintain a healthy sitting posture too which is also a big help.
So, if you spend a few hours each day sitting down make sure you do so in a chair that relieves pressure on your back and remember to get up out of it regularly too!
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
It’s vitally important that you get good quality sleep on a regular basis if you’re going to avoid back pain.
As it’s during sleep that your body gets a chance to repair, heal and restore itself from the previous day’s stresses and strains. So, your back muscles need you to be getting a deep and restorative sleep every night to stay healthy.
But if you’re someone who struggles with your sleep and wake up in the mornings feeling stiff and sore all is not lost. As there are a few things you can try to improve it such as:
- Optimising your bedroom for sleeping by removing electronics, buying some blackout curtains or blinds, keeping the temperature cool, and only going in there to sleep.
- Not drinking too much caffeine during the day.
- Avoiding stimulating activities in the hour before bedtime and indulging in something more relaxing instead.
- Developing good sleeping habits such as keeping regular sleeping hours, avoiding constantly checking the time, and definitely not reaching for your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night!
- Making sure your mattress is up to date and both comfortable and supportive.
And sleeping well will also benefit you in other areas such as giving you more energy, boosting your immune system, improving your mood and mental performance, as well being good for your physical condition.
So, make sure that getting good quality sleep is a priority and you’ll soon notice the difference in your back pain levels.
After all who doesn’t want to wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed in the morning rather than sore and in pain?
Learn to Relax
Now this one may sound a bit simplistic. But learning to relax properly is another vital element of maintaining a healthy back.
Because when we are feeling stressed and anxious this creates a lot of tension. And people tend to hold this tension within their bodies which causes hunched shoulders, awkward postures and tight muscles that add extra pressure and strain onto your back, neck and shoulders.
So, to avoid this tension from building up you need to be able to relax and let go of any stresses and worries. And there are plenty of ways you can do this such as:
- Taking a nice long soak in a hot bath.
- Practicing deep breathing exercises.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Losing yourself in your favourite hobby.
- Taking the dog for a walk.
Or whatever works for you. Just make sure that you take the time each day to truly unwind and let go of the days stresses and you’ll feel the benefit in your back in no time.
And getting yourself into a relaxed state like this will also bring you many other benefits such as improving your sleep quality, increasing circulation, lowering your blood pressure, and improving your mood and giving you a positive outlook.
Which is all good news for your overall health and well-being as well as for the health of your back.
So, while persistent back pain is a common problem for many people, it doesn’t have to be inevitable for people as they approach their senior years. Because by making a few changes to your lifestyle and daily habits you can keep yourself fit, healthy, and live a life free from any nagging pain.
About the Author
Daniel Singleton is the founder of Back On Site, a website designed to help people fight back against persistent back pain using his own personal experiences with the condition and the latest medical and scientific advice.