What Causes Back Pain in the Elderly?
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What Causes Back Pain
in the Elderly?


Elderly back pain


In the UK our elderly population is increasing. There are some estimates that the number of people aged over 60 could increase by 40% in the next 30 years. Whereas in 1995 there were less than 9 million people aged over 65, by 2030 there may be as many as 13 million. The growing population means that we are seeing an increase in age related conditions, such as back pain.


Elderly people suffer from both acute and chronic back pain for a number of reasons, some of the most common being:


Degenerative Disc Disease


The spine is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae which are supported in place by soft discs filled with a jelly-like substance. As we age our ligaments thicken and the spinal discs dry out and lose their stability. Unstable discs can slip out of place. A herniated (slipped) or bulging disc may put pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain and weakness in the back or even a shooting pain down the legs (sciatica).




Osteoporosis is a condition associated with a reduction in bone mass, which makes the bones weaker and more brittle, causing them to fracture easily. Natural bone loss occurs as we age. In the early stages when only small hairline fractures are present this condition is barely noticeable. However, as larger fractures form they can be felt as a sharp pain lasting several weeks. This then subsides into a dull ache which can last around nine months or even become chronic. Osteoporosis sometimes causes a loss of mobility and the lack of exercise exacerbates stiffness and pain.




Osteoarthritis is a condition associated with wear and tear of the body over time. Osteoarthritis is a term given to arthritis of the bone, where the joints of the body degenerate and cartilage within the joint breaks down. The breakdown of cartilage in the vertebral facet joints in the spine causes inflammation and frictional pain as the bones rub together. Over time lumps of hard bone (bone spurs) may form over the joint, and may cause additional pain by trapping nerves.


Lumbar Spinal Stenosis


Spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine (situated in the lower back) is the narrowing of the canals which contain the spinal nerves. This narrowing gradually compresses the nerves, causing symptoms of sciatica including tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back into the buttocks and legs. Symptoms worsen with activity.

Back Pain Management


Even though aches and pains do normally increase as we age if you regularly suffer with back pain it is important to determine its cause. The primary step is to seek advice from your GP, who should diagnose the condition and propose the appropriate course of treatment. Depending on your doctor's recommendation there are also several things you can do to help relieve pain:

Back pain relief and management in the elderly

" Try a topical cream used to treat muscle pain and osteoarthritis
" An ice pack applied to the back can reduce pain and any swelling
" A lumbar support such as those listed here at TalarMade can help to cushion and support the spine when seated
" If your health practitioner recommends it, you can take part in gentle exercises such as swimming, walking, cycling or yoga which help to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility
" Consider physiotherapy which can help improve movement and function
" You may want to try massage or chiropractic therapy which have been shown to help relieve pain in some cases




Related pages:

Back pain relief advice

Adjustable back rest



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