Aging and Back Pain:
The incidence of back pain increases between the ages of 20
to 65. There are multiple factors involved, but one of the main
gradual loss of muscle mass. Strength exercises are THE
best way, if not only way, to counteract the loss of muscle mass
that goes with aging and prevent back pain. It's never too late
to begin exercising and reap the rewards.
* The incidence of back pain actually goes down after the age
of 65. This is because the majority of back pain is caused by
muscle or ligament strain and people of working age are more
likely to suffer from overuse injuries or acute injuries from
lifting something too heavy, etc. However,
the incidence of back pain caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis
of the spine and spinal stenosis increases in people over 65.
Besides relieving back pain, strengthening
the core muscles also improves balance, which helps prevent
falls. Strengthening exercises increase bone mass and well as
muscle mass, an added bonus. Stretching exercises maintain mobility
and prevent injuries that cause back pain. Back
Exercises Counteract effects of Aging. See
Back Exercises Page.
Lack of Sleep and Back Pain:
If you are suffering from back pain, lack of sleep will aggravate
it for several reasons. It is while we are sleeping that much
tissue repair takes place. Also, lack of sleep causes brain chemistry
to become imbalanced and lowers the pain threshold. People who
don't get enough sleep suffer more from chronic pain, including
Fatigued back muscles can't adequately support the spine and
poor posture may result. When the spine is not in proper alignment,
more stress is placed on the muscles, discs, and spinal joints.
Fatigued back muscles are more easily strained, resulting in
Of course back pain itself can interrupt sleep and the pain
may be the total cause of your sleep difficulties.
If you suffer chronic back pain and/or are having trouble sleeping,
your doctor may prescribe a low dose antidepressant that raises
levels of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are linked to sleep
problems and a lowered pain threshold. Aerobic exercise can also
increase levels of serotonin and improve the quality of sleep.
Don't do aerobic exercise too close to your bedtime as your metabolism
is raised after aerobics and can keep you awake.
Because a tolerance can build up to sleep medications, they are
not suitable for long-term use. A tolerance to pain medications
containing codeine can also develop if they are used regularly,
rendering them ineffective. If you have chronic back pain, pain
medications containing codeine should be saved for days where your
back pain is at its worst.
Depression and Anxiety and Back Pain:
Chronic lower back pain is sometimes linked to depression and
anxiety. The exact cause for this is not known but there are
many theories. Low serotonin levels are common in both chronic
back pain and depression.
It may be that fatigue is a symptom of depression and when fatigued,
the muscles in the back don't support the spine properly. Mental
stress and anxiety can also cause the muscles to tense up (contract),
especially in the muscles of the neck and back, and tense muscles
are more easily injured.
Of course the back pain itself may be contributing to the depression.
Chronic pain can lead to feelings of helplessness, and a lack
of control over anything in one's life can lead to depression.
Low doses of antidepressants are often helpful in treating chronic
back pain. If the depression is the main problem, a regular dose
of antidepressants may be required. Aerobic exercise also increases
levels of serotonin and endorphins - natural substances released
by your body that are similar to opiates - and relieves back
pain and depression.
Stress and Back Pain:
Stress causes the muscles can to tighten up, which reduces blood
supply to the tissues, causing lack of oxygen and an accumulation
of waste products (such as lactic acid) in the muscles. This leads
to fatigue and also can cause or intensify pain. Muscles can actually
go into painful spasms. The muscles of the back and neck are commonly
affected by stress. See Stress
and Back Pain for more information.
Smoking and Back Pain:
Smokers have an increased rate of back pain, especially lower back
pain, possibly because lowered oxygen levels in the tissues of smokers
delays healing. Smokers also experience increased degeneration of
Drinking plenty of water prevents acidic waste products from building
up in the muscles. High levels of acidic waste products (byproducts
of muscular activity) in the muscles cause muscle irritation and
pain. It is especially important to drink extra water before, during,
and after exercise. However, drinking water is important even when
you are not exercising - your back muscles are being used all the
time (just to sit or stand) and acidic waste products can build
up in your tissues.
Footwear and Lower Back Pain:
High Heels: Wearing high heels throws your spine out of alignment
and can cause lower back pain. Wearing high heels causes the pelvis
to arch forward, causing sway back and extra stress on the lower
spine. Try to reduce the amount of time wearing heels over 1 or
2 inches high to prevent back pain.
Cushioning: Adequate cushioning in the soles helps absorb shock,
which is transmitted up the legs to the lower back, created when
the feet hit the ground when walking or running.
Support: Support features built into the shoe help
correct gait problems that can place extra stress on the
entire lower body.
*The amount of cushioning and support and even the shape of the
shoe that is best depend upon
the foot type and gait style of an individual. See
Footwear and Back Pain for more information.
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