Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 7, 2016
Our bodies naturally begin to break down as we age, and our spine is no different. Degenerative disc disease is rather common as we push into our 60’s and 70’s, as our spine has been subjected to decades of repetitive stress. We can’t do all the things we used to take for granted, but we can still live active lives long into our elder years if we make spine health a top priority. Today, we explain why spine care is critical as we age, and some tips to help keep your spine healthy for years to come.
How The Spine Ages
90 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life, but the odds of developing back pain increase as we age. There are two main spinal conditions that typically affect older populations; osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.
- Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis condition that gradually develops over time. Over the decades, spinal cartilage between the facet joints begins to break down. The cartilage acts as a natural shock absorber for your spine, and pain can set in when this shock absorber is gone.
- Spinal Stenosis – Spinal stenosis is characterized as the narrowing of the bone channel that is home to your spine and spinal cord. Spinal stenosis can occur from natural (aging) or unnatural (acute injury) causes. When this narrowing occurs, spinal nerves or other aspects of the spinal column can become compressed.
As we noted above, both of these conditions can naturally set in as we age, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things to offset their progression. If you take an active role in preventing the natural degenerative of your spine, you’ll slow the onset or the development of related issues.
Preventing Spine Problems As We Grow Older
Here are a number of quick tips to help maintain optimal spinal health as you age.
- Regular exercise helps strengthen crucial muscle groups in your spine that contribute to good spinal health.
- Low-impact exercises are your friend. You may not be able to go for a run anymore, but your spine will thank you if you opt for low-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi or walking.
- Avoid unhealthy food options that can cause spinal inflammation to flare up.
- Know your limits when it comes to everyday activities. Don’t try lifting that heavy box on your own or doing hours of yard work in one day.
- Water based activities and workouts can help keep your spine in optimal shape while helping decrease load-bearing on your back.
- Friends can help you stay active and get your workout in, so find a walking buddy or sign up for a yoga class with a friend.
- Keep ice packs and heat pads handy. Always keep ice in the freezer and a heat pad in a nearby closet to help manage bouts of back pain.
- Talk to your doctor about any issues you are experiencing, the best way to handle regular discomfort and what exercises can best treat and manage your spine pain.
Remember that you don’t need to live in pain. We know that the prospect of surgery can seem scary, but oftentimes a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure can alleviate or resolve your pain.