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Exploring the Relationship Between Age and Back Pain

Getting older certainly has its perks—wisdom, experience, and, eventually, the freedom of retirement to name just a few. But with aging gracefully comes an aging body. One of the biggest downsides to aging is risk of back pain. While the elderly have a greater chance of developing painful spinal compression fractures caused by osteoporosis, the connection between aging and back pain varies based on activity at each stage of life.

Your activity factor and your activity of choice at various ages throughout your life have a significant impact on various types of back pain you may experience. For example, most individuals tend to experience most active daily lifestyle between the ages of 30 and 50. During these years, the body is likely to be working, raising a family, and participating in fitness or sports activities. With all these activities going on, a middle-aged adult is actually highly at risk of sustaining a back injury. 

 

Herniated Disc in Middle Age

 A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back pain in middle age. A herniated disc (also called a slipped, ruptured, or bulging disc) is considered an injury of the spine (backbone). The spine contains a series of bones (vertebrae), stretching from the base of your skull to your tailbone. Between your vertebrae are round cushions called discs. The discs act as buffers between your bones, allowing you to bend and move with ease. When one of these discs tears or leaks, it’s called a herniated disc. When this happens, it usually causes compression, irritation, and significant pain. A fairly common issue, every year, up to 2% of people end up with a herniated disc. 

People ages 30 to 50 are the most likely to suffer a herniated disc. The problem affects men twice as often as women. Other risk factors include:

  • Sitting for long periods in the same position.
  • Being overweight.
  • Lifting heavy objects.
  • Repetitive bending or twisting motions for work, sports, or hobbies.
  • Smoking.

Herniated discs typically occur in the lower back and cause what is known as “sciatic nerve pain” or “sciatica.” The pain is usually a sharp one that shoots down one side of the buttocks and into the leg and sometimes even all the way down to the foot. Other issues related to herniated discs in the lower back are back pain, tingling/numbness in the legs and feet, and general muscle weakness. 

If rest and OTC medications don’t resolve your herniated disc, you’ll need to reach out to an orthopaedic doctor to help you overcome your pain. Your orthopaedic physician may prescribe medication, physical therapy, spinal injections, or even recommend surgery. While 9 out of 10 herniated discs can be remedied without surgery, more severe cases may require one of the following types of surgical intervention:

  • Microdiscectomy to remove your herniated disk.
  • Laminectomy to remove part of the bone around a herniated disc and expand your spinal canal.
  • Artificial disc surgery to replace a damaged herniated disc with an artificial one.
  • Spinal fusion to directly join two or more vertebrae together to make your spine more stable.

Anytime surgery is on the table as a remedy, you’ll want to work with the very best—meaning the most skilled and knowledgeable medical specialists regarding this treatment option. At Southlake Orthopaedics, we’re proud to offer a team of surgical and non-surgical specialists with a combined  65 years of experience. The result is personalized, compassionate care designed to get you back on your feet and back to the activities that make you feel most fulfilled. 

Degenerative Back Conditions

 Other sources of back pain that increase as you get older are typically related to degenerative changes in the body. These changes can contribute to deterioration in a variety of areas of the spine, causing unwanted pain and discomfort.

One common cause of age-related back pain is muscle mass decrease, also known as sarcopenia. This decrease in the body’s muscle mass typically begins at around age 30 and continues at a rate of about 2 percent per year—lasting well into your senior years. The loss of muscle mass causes you to lose strength, which inevitably places added stress on your hard-working spine. Fortunately, it’s never too late for you to slow down, stop, or even reverse the progression of age-related spinal changes like muscle mass decrease. Our skilled care team at Southlake Orthopaedics can certainly assist with helping you discover the right exercises for your unique body in addition to providing guidance for coping with pain you may face.

Another age-related back issue occurs via the discs losing water. Without their necessary lubrication, the discs may become brittle and lose their ability to provide cushion for your spinal joints. Additionally, arthritic changes in the vertebrae that can occur for some, leading to a host of pains and mobility issues. Our goal at Southlake Orthopaedics is to diagnose your problem correctly, and help you determine the best path toward pain-free mobility at every decade.

  

Painless Aging with Help from Southlake Orthopaedics

At Southlake Orthopaedics, we’re honored to see patients across all ages and stages of life. From children and adolescents to adults and seniors, you can count on our experts no matter how young or old you are. We’re here to provide you with complete treatment for your unique orthopaedic needs. To reach out to our dedicated orthopaedic specialists for a consultation, please click here today.