How to Treat Age-Related Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is pain that persists after healing from an injury or recovering from a surgery— lasting 12 weeks or longer. Over 70 percent of older Americans suffer from back pain. Females are twice as likely to experience back pain than males because of their higher likelihood of developing osteoporosis, osteopenia and osteoarthritis.
Through extensive research, we’ve found several treatment options to help reduce chronic back pain. These treatments include at home methods, therapies and medical procedures. Always speak with your doctor before attempting any form of treatment to find the option best for you.
At home methods include exercise, stretching, over-the-counter medication and rest.
Abdominal strengthening reinforces the spine by bolstering your core muscles, while spinal extension exercises helps strengthen the lower back. Speak with your doctor or healthcare physician to find the right exercise regime best for you.
Stretching relieves muscle tension and improves motion. Before stretching, wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothing, like sweatpants and a t-shirt. Move slowly into a stretch and never force the body into any painful positions.
Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medication includes ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin and acetaminophen. These over-the-counter medications reduce inflammatory pain and should be taken consistently, instead of when pain occurs. Talk with your doctor before taking any form of medication.
With any injury it’s important to rest, but for chronic back pain having the best mattress for your particular sleep needs may improve rest and reduce pain. A supportive mattress that encourages spinal alignment may prevent back pain and worsening symptoms of existing back pain.
Avoid long periods of bed rest—regularly try gentle stretches to keep the blood flowing and loosen up muscles. Bed rest longer than 48 hours may intensify back pain.
Different therapies to reduce chronic back pain include osteopathic manipulation, laser, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and physical therapy.
Osteopathic Manipulation (OMT)
Osteopathic manipulation therapy is when osteopathic physicians (DOs) move the muscles and joints through stretching, gentle massage and resistance. This form of therapy adjusts and stimulates the spine and surrounding area.
Laser therapy uses a single wavelength of light to encourage tissue repair non-invasively. Laser therapy is also an anti-inflammatory and may encourage better blood flow.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation uses low-voltage electric currents to block pain receptors and prevent them from sending pain signals to the brain. TENS therapy is used to treat both chronic and acute back pain.
Physical therapy involves various exercise programs prescribed by physicians to build strength and improve balance and flexibility. Physical therapy can also strengthen back and abdominal muscles, resulting in a more resilient spine.
Medical procedures include nerve block injections, radiofrequency ablation, spinal cord stimulators and minimally invasive lumbar decompression and vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty.
Nerve Block Injections
Nerve block injections reduce pain and inflammation by targeting a group of nerves. This procedure allows damaged nerves to heal.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation uses electrical currents from radio waves to heat up an area of tissue to reduce pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulator
Spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device, which sends low-level electric currents directly to the spinal cord for pain relief, and is powered through a remote control.
With so much of the population affected by chronic back pain, finding the right treatment can help reduce discomfort and may even eliminate it altogether. Talk to your doctor before attempting any of the above listed treatments to find which one works best for you.
Meg Riley is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a full-time writer focused on sleep health and the mattress industry. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Junkie. She has her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University where she studied Advertising and Public Relations and wrote articles on the student experience for College Magazine. Her writing and research has been featured on Healthline, PhillyVoice, Daily Waffle, Boss Magazine and more.