What Causes Back Pain Over 55?
If you've been dealing with back pain, you know that it can really suck.
In fact, back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
When your back is spasming, it can be impossible to do anything at all.
If you've ever had this happen to you, I'm sure you can relate.
It happens to the best of us
This happened to me actually sometime last year. It was a normal Saturday, playing with the kids. I didn't do anything in particular. The next morning I woke up and I couldn't move.
It took me about half an hour to get out of bed!
The good thing for me as a chiropractor is that I'm an expert on treating and managing spine pain. I knew exactly what the problem was, and was able to manage that appropriately.
The thing is though, even though I knew what was happening, and why my back hurt... it still sucked!
Now, one of the confusing things about back pain is that if you Google it, you'll get an assortment of answers. All the way from"a sprain or strain, take some Advil do some stretches and it'll likely go away"...all the way to "you have have a day or two to live".
So I don't recommend relying on Dr. Google.
What to do?
Back pain is very frustrating and challenging. There are so many different options out there! Different people telling you different things. to do and coming up with various explanations and. possible solutions.
See your medical doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, reiki, acupuncture. Get orthotics. Put some cream on your back. Take some pills. Use heat. Use Ice. Hang upside down. Go workout. Don't go workout. Go swimming. Definitely don't go swimming. Go for a run. Go for a walk. Sit down on the couch, sit on a chair. Lay in the fetal position, and just pray to the gods that things get better... It can be very frustrating.
How to diagnose back pain
While there are many different possible diagnoses. for back pain (i.e. Spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, facet syndrome, disc herniation, disc bulge, disc fissure, muscle sprain and the list goes on)...the good news is that 90 plus percent of all back pain comes from one of three structures.
The reason this is good is that we're more easily able to diagnose the issue and therefore able to treat it! (If you're seeing someone who's an expert in spine pain or back pain)
These three structures of the back that make up the vast majority of back pain come from:
number one, the disc
Number two, the facet joints
Number three, the sacroiliac joints
These make up 40, 30, and roughly 20% of all back pain for people over 55 years of age.
Now I know what you may be thinking. What about my muscles? I see a massage therapist, they rub my back and I feel so much better. I do some stretches and I feel so much better. The muscles are certainly a contributing factor to back pain!
Fact is that. the muscles are. rarely the primary cause of. back pain. If you have a disc injury, that's gonna cause a lot of pain along with a lot of muscular spasm which can contribute to the pain as well. If you have an inflamed joint, an inflamed facet, or sacroiliac joint iliac, that's will alsocause those surrounding muscular structures to tense, go into spasm and cause a lot of pain. So yes, the muscles are oftentimes involved, but they're not oftentimes the primary source of your pain.
What If You Have Arthritis?!
People always ask what they can do even if they have been diagnosed with arthritis. Or that their doctor said that they hurt because their body is riddled with arthritis.
The answer to this is right ahead!
As we age, our bodies start to develop some arthritic changes within our spines. The discs start to shrink and. lose their height. This is called degenerative disc disease. Now, whoever came up with the name for this condition did a terrible disservice to everyone because the word "disease" is kind of misleading
This "disease" is a very common, and normal thing that occurs as we get older. Calling it degenerative disc disease is similar to calling getting gray hair, "degenerative hair disease"....it's just silly.
But this is really what we mean when we say arthritis. Arth = joint. itis = inflammation. So arthritis really means joint inflammation.
So we need to ask ourselves, why do these joints become inflamed?
As we age, our joints start to dehydrate, just like our skin. Things shrink.
We loose the cells that retain water in our various tissues
And while these structural changes certainly do have an impact on the way our bodies feel and the way that they move, they don't necessarily always cause pain. In fact, there's some research done on this topic. It revealed that x-rays of 100 people put them up on a wall, and rating them from most to least arthritic, did not correspond with the pain those people experienced!
You would imagine the most arthritic spine would have the most amount of pain. The least arthritic spine would have the least amount of pain. But we know that this isn't the case!
So how could we kind of wrap our heads around this? What I've discovered is that arthritis may make you more predisposed or more easily able to experience pain...but it may not be causing pain in and of itself.
Said in another way, if you have a lot of arthritic changes and the right environment in your body. If you are decondited, out of shape, have. fibrosis, there's a lot of inflammatory processes occurring due to poor dietary habits, due to poor exercise habits... then you may be more likely to exhibit pain.
A person who may be more fit, have regular exercise, stretches, eats well, has a positive social network, have great social connections that peers and less stress, etc....these people. will have less pain.
So it's more complicated than arthritis = pain.
Why do our joints become arthritic?
Research suggests inactivity for a prolonged period of time leads to that arthritic process a lot faster than if you are active!
Research and clinical practice has also shown me that if there's severe trauma to an area, for example, if you fell off a building or in a vehicle collision, or have been in high collision sporting activities it's more likely that you're gonna have those arthritic processes occurring at a faster rate than if you weren't in that situation to begin with.
Other factors contributing to arthritis occurring is:
- How much are you exercising?
The Symptoms of an Arthritic Spine
Stiffness, pain, reduced mobility.
Oftentimes, people who have arthritic changes will be stiff and achy first thing in the morning for 30 minutes or longer. What happens is the more they start to move around, the better they feel, the looser they feel.
This is what we call the "Gel phenomenon"
Picture in your joints this capsule. It has synovial fluid in it. And as it starts to become arthritic is it starts become more like molasses rather than being liquidy.
So what happens with molasses? At rest it is thick, hard and very viscous. It's hard to move.
As you start to rub it, it warms up. It becomes more of a gel. It becomes more fluid, and it moves a lot more easily.
This is the same type of thing that happens within the joints of our bodies that are arthritic.
The more you start to move around, the more things loosen up and less achyness.
Is the pain from arthritis?
I hear questions from patients asking me does arthritis have any impact on spine pain? And the answer is:... it depends.
For some people it doesn't at all. They may have be riddled with arthritis and they feel great.
For others, it does, it has a huge impact on them for. reasons stated above. But it's important to understand that oftentimes just because you have arthritis, that doesn't mean that there's not help for you to help reduce or ideally get rid of your back pain entirely. There are solutions!
The five keys to help stop back pain for women over 55!
The first key and most important key to stopping your back pain is determining what your diagnosis is. If we don't know your diagnosis, we can't effectively manage and treat your pain. It's kind of like trying to shoot blind archery while spinning on the teacups at Disney and hitting a small little target that's three miles away.
If you don't have a diagnosis you can spray and pray and try a whole bunch of different things to see what sticks. In other words, if you don't have that diagnosis, good luck. The key for this is to be evaluated by an expert in diagnostics and someone who is able to diagnose your condition and manage it appropriately. Oftentimes people will be diagnosed with arthritis or degenerative discs or disc bulg or be told that they're really tight. This is kind a garbage can diagnosis. It doesn't really tell us anything. It doesn't tell us anything about your situation, and it doesn't give us a direction on treatment. So we need to have an accurate and specific diagnosis to begin with.
The second key to managing your back pain and helping reduce your back pain is meeting at least the minimum movement recommended guidelines. They are 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, and strength training or resistance training each of your major body groups twice a week.
This is the bare minimum recommended guidelines! If you're not meeting the bare minimum, well then you're more likely to be experiencing pain problems in other conditions as well. So try to meet these bare minimum guidelines, if not exceed them.
The third key for managing back pain is asking yourself, are you living on pain medication...are you in pain all the time?
If this is the case, you're likely inflamed. There is a thing called this low grade systemic inflammation. Look up the defamed Diet by Dr. David Seaman.
He discusses this low level, low grade systemic inflammatory process that occurs within our bodies, and this oftentimes leads to pain
You need to get that inflammation under control. Remember, you can't control this inflammation through Advil, Tylenol, or any other type of medication. You need to do it through your diet!
The fourth key in order to minimize the risk and chances of you having spine pain is getting an expert in people who manage spine pain in your corner. You aren't able to do everything yourself.
If I have a problem with my car, I don't really try to fix it myself, I take it to my mechanic because they are an expert in fixing mycar problems.
Id bet that you are not an expert in treating back problems. You need someone who is.
Someone who is able to provide multiple treatment options, not just the one trick pony. The reality is that back pain involves multiple moving parts, and we need to be able to do multiple different things in order to treat it most effectively. So get an expert in your corner.
The fifth key factor in eliminating your back pain is take action. People come into my office with a back or hip problem or another type of problem, and I ask how determined they are to rid this problem from their lives. Often the answer is "meh... it'd be nice if it was gone, but I don't really want to do anything about it."
You can see how this is a big problem. You need to take action!
You need to be seeing the experts.
You need to be getting some help.
You need to be addressing your nutrition.
You need to be doing some exercises, doing some stretches that have been appropriately suggested for you and you need to do something NOW!
You shouldn't just be relying on others to fix you.
The reality is that you can't cut. out back pain with a knife or w with drugs. You need to be taking some steps, doing things actively to help manage back pain. And more often than not, this will be effective in eliminating it entirely.
An analogy I like to use is with the dentist.
Let's say you go to the dentist and you get your teeth cleaned and they're all shiny, white and they feel great. Three weeks go by, You go to this nice restaurant, you have a nice meal, and then you get home.
And then you complain to your spouse, your partner, "I don't think that dentist really did their job well. My teeth are still dirty"
Now she's gonna ask you, "Have you been brushing your teeth?"
Obviously the answer is no. "Why would I brush my teeth? I went to the dentist, they cleaned my teeth!"
You can see how silly this sounds, right?
It is the same with back pain. We need to be taking a proactive approach to manage our back pain. Seeing the experts so they're able to give you suggestions and possibly do any therapy or treatment that could be helpful. But you need to be doing things as well to keep things under control and keep your back feeling great.
Exercises for Back Pain
Have you been told that you need to exercise and that you have a weak core? In order to have less pain, you need to get a strong core and exercise more. Are you finding it difficult to do any type of exercise at all without it increasing your back pain? Well, if that's the case, you've come to the right place.
Today, I'm gonna share with you how you can exercise your back and your body to have less pain, and feel great! Start with level 1, and work you're way to level 5. Stop if you feel any pain, and speak with your health care provider if these exercises are good for your specific situation!
These exercises have been taken, and can be found at the Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative website. Its a great resource site for exercises for back, shoulder and neck issues. Along with other useful information!