Updated: September 2018
Back pain is a common physical problem that many seniors deal with as they get older. Although very common, back pain can be quite debilitating and difficult for many seniors to deal with on their own.
If you are caring for a senior with back pain, there are many things you can do to ease their pain and make it easier for them to enjoy their favorite activities. Here are some helpful care options and tips for seniors who are struggling with back pain.
Back braces provide helpful support for seniors who are struggling with pain on a regular basis. A back brace wraps around the abdomen to provide muscular support and gently hold the back in a safe, comfortable posture.
Back braces are very helpful for the elderly who are still relatively active, because they can be worn under or over clothes throughout the day. Back braces can also help seniors increase their range of movement in a healthy, supported way.
There are many medications that can help relieve back pain for seniors. It’s important before starting a medication for seniors to talk to their doctor to ensure that the medication is safe for them to take. Some of these medications also require a prescription from a doctor.
For mild to moderate back pain, there are several over the counter pain relievers that can be used to temporarily relieve pain, inflammation, and soreness, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen.
For more serious back pain, seniors can take stronger options like prescribed narcotics or steroids, as well as muscle relaxants. Medication is best used in combination with these other care strategies to relieve back pain in seniors.
Gentle Stretch and Strengthening Exercises
It’s important for seniors with back pain to take the time to address the muscular or spinal issues that are causing the pain, instead of just treating them with medication. There are many types of gentle exercises that are wonderful for relieving back pain.
For example, both yoga and Pilates gives seniors an easy way to stretch out tight areas of the back, while also strengthening the muscles in the abdomen to provide more support.
Many physical therapists also provide active therapy strategies for back pain, such as gentle cardio exercises or strength training with weights or resistance. Working with a physical therapist can be extremely beneficial for anyone struggling with back pain.
Many senior communities provide their residents with access to physical therapy services on site.
Massages are an excellent way to loosen up any tight areas of the back and release the pain. There are many different massage techniques that can be used for back pain, so it may be helpful to try different types of massages to find one that works for you. Physical manipulation not only provides physical pain relief, but it can also be very relaxing and reduce stress as well.
Heat and Ice
Heat and ice treatment is one of the most basic ways to relieve pain in any area of the body. If you find that your back is hurting particularly badly, it’s important to use heat and ice to manage the pain and inflammation.
If you notice your back muscles are inflamed and swollen, you should use ice at the end of the day to relieve the swelling. Heat can be used at the beginning of the day or before a potentially strenuous activity to warm up the back muscles and loosen up any tension or knots.
In addition to heating pads and ice packs, there are also creams and patches available at the drugstore that provide soothing heat and cold relief. These are very helpful to apply throughout the day for gentle relief.
Seeing a chiropractor is another helpful option for seniors struggling with back pain. Chiropractic adjustments can correct any musculoskeletal imbalances or impairments in the back and reduce tension.
Chiropractic treatment paired with physical therapy and other treatment options can be immensely beneficial for those with chronic back pain. It’s important to note that chiropractic treatment is not always helpful for back pain, so it’s important to determine where your pain is stemming from before you go see the chiropractor.
The furniture a senior sits and lays in throughout the day should support their posture and prevent them from getting into positions that could be detrimental for their health. There are many desk chairs, arm chairs, and even recliners that are designed specifically to support the natural curvature of your back and encourage correct posture.
There are also many supportive pillow options that you can use to add a little extra support on your lower or upper back. These pillows are excellent for travel, because you can add a bit of extra support when you are in the car, on a plane, or at someone else’s house.
Meditation and Mental Health Support
Many seniors who experience back pain find that the pain gets worse when they are experiencing psychological stress. Mental health support strategies can help seniors relax, which in turn can minimize their back pain.
Meditation is a helpful strategy that seniors can try on their own or in a group. There are many different types of meditation, so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your needs and lifestyle.
Counseling and therapy is another important part of a healthy mind and body. Even for seniors who don’t have clinical depression or anxiety, therapy can help them relax and deal with the unique challenges of getting older.
With reduced stress often comes reduced physical pain as well. Many senior living centers offer resources that can help residents find mental health treatment.
For seniors with serious chronic back pain, surgery is often the most efficient way to fix the problem. Although surgery is invasive and can be expensive, it also can relieve back pain permanently instead of just managing it.
If you are interested in surgery, the first step is to consult with a medical specialist and have an evaluation done to determine what type of surgery would be most effective. Your doctor will need to determine where the pain is stemming from before they can decide what the most effective corrective option will be.
Some potential surgery options for seniors with back pain include disc replacement, spinal fusion, and disc removal, although there are many more types of surgery and medical procedures that can be used to treat back pain.
Any senior experiencing back pain should always consult with their doctor to determine the best course of treatment for their unique physical problems. It’s also important to consult with a doctor before trying any new remedies or exercise plans for your back pain.
There are many ways to treat back pain, so if you struggle with this chronic problem, there are many strategies you can try to relieve the pain and treat the source of the discomfort.
A combination of several of these strategies is often the best course of action for seniors. If you are ever unsure of how to treat your back pain, be sure to consult your doctor for help with this and other assisted living concerns.