While almost everyone experiences back pain at some point throughout their lives, for seniors, it’s a far more common occurrence. Back pain in seniors can be due to a variety of reasons, whether because they suffer from chronic conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis or simply due to just normal wear and tear on the spine.
Aging itself is the number one reason for lower back pain in seniors. The vertebrae in the spine are protected by disks filled with a jelly-like substance that acts a shock absorber, but over time, these disks begin to wear away, shrinking down until the vertebrae rub together, causing pain and stiffness many seniors suffer from daily.
There’s also a common condition called spinal stenosis, where the area around the spinal cord begins to narrow, putting more pressure on the cord and spinal nerves. Osteoporosis can also make the vertebrae more vulnerable to fractures that cause chronic pain.
Rehab for Back Pain: Exercises for a Strong, Limber Back
When seniors suffer from chronic back pain, it’s important to visit the doctor to make sure something more serious isn’t going on. Plus, there are certainly things they can do to help provide some back pain relief, like taking over-the-counter medications or alternating cold and warm compresses.
However, experts suggest one of the best ways to relieve back pain is to simply get up and move. While rest is of course necessary, taking it too easy can have adverse effects. Exercise and rehab for back pain help strengthen muscles in your back, stomach and legs, plus they help support the spine. When done in a controlled and gradual manner, exercise keeps the muscles, ligaments and joints in the back healthy and fluid, as well as reduce the recurrence of pain.
When seniors suffer from lower back pain, they’re often referred to a rehabilitation program that provides physical therapy, especially before considering additional options for relief like surgery. The goals of the physical therapy exercises are to decrease pain and improve overall function, plus provide the senior with a way to prevent problems in the future.
Here are some of the best lower back rehab exercises that can provide some pain relief:
Abdominal crunches. Partial crunches not only help strengthen stomach muscles, but they also strengthen the muscles of the back. However, avoid doing full sit-ups as they can put too much pressure on the discs in the spine.
Stretching exercises. Stretching exercises help loosen the joints by activating the fluids inside of them, helping to reduce damage caused by friction. Plus, stretching lengthens the muscles, keeping them long and less susceptible to injury. Doing hamstring stretches can be particularly beneficial in back pain relief.
Water aerobics or swimming. Water provides a way to do a “no impact” workout, since the buoyancy of the water counteracts gravity. Plus, aerobic activity strengthens the lungs, heart and blood vessel to help keep seniors in better shape physically. Just be careful of any movement in the water that could twist the body.
Walking. For seniors with chronic lower back pain, walking just three times a week for 20 minutes at a time helps strengthen both abdominal and back muscles to provide pain relief.
Core strengthening exercises. Improving core strength is vital for better stamina, stability, coordination and posture. Plus, a strong core helps support the spine and protects from future injury.