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What Causes Back Pain in an Older Person?

You are 60 years old, active, and healthy, and besides the mattress looking a bit too yellow, there is no reason for you to have this back pain. So, what could cause this back pain? In this article, we’ll break it down from most likely to least likely, and I’ll offer some pointers to improve the pain.

Causes of Back Pain in Your 60s

Let’s go over a few back pain causes, specifically for those in their 60s. We’ll start with the most common and work our way down to the less common and often more serious back pain conditions.

1. Muscle Spasms

Over time, even when you’re fairly active, your back can tighten up and spasm. Sometimes, it’ll do it only occasionally, other times, you’ll have a wave of back pain coming and going for a few months. This may often be the result of muscle loss with aging, which can be remedied with resistance training.

Muscle spasms often cause pains with which you wake up in the morning and get better throughout the day.

Favorite exercises: As soon as you wake up in the morning while still in bed, do a Hollow Hold and Back Arch. Alternatives are Bird Dog and Superman.

2. Tight Fascia

Tight fascia in the back can happen from muscle exhaustion or being in stiff positions for a while throughout the day. Some of my patients with elevated blood sugars seem to suffer from this as well.

Favorite exercise: In the morning, while still in bed, gentle stretches of your back without excessive flexion of the lumbar spine can be very effective.

3. Arthritis

Often, it’s osteoarthritis of facet joints, which are culprits of waking up with quite miserable back pain. Sometimes dietary changes can help, and low back exercises are definitely a good idea as long as they are low impact.

Favorite exercises: I love Dr Jo’s routine of stretches and exercises for facet joint issues. These can be done throughout the day but also immediately after waking up.

4. Inflammation

Sometimes autoimmune, other times vague inflammation in the body causes back pain which can last a few days and will be rather consistent before disappearing. My patients can often tell me what foods or conditions set it off. Though blood tests can be helpful for these conditions, we always want to rule out any autoimmune conditions when back pain is more persistent.

Treatment involves getting a proper diagnosis first before starting a lifestyle regimen and even medications, herbs, or various supplements to decrease the inflammation.

5. Disc Problems

Achy and dull lower back pain that is often localized to the back itself but at times radiating to the buttock, groin, or upper thighs can be a sign of degenerative disc disease. A good physical exam is often more than adequate to make the diagnosis. An MRI can be helpful but unnecessary unless there is weakness or muscle loss.

Favorite exercises: Since this pain is more chronic, regular position changes throughout the day, along with Cat Cow stretches and Hamstring Stretches, are important. I refer my patients to a physical therapist as well since some long-term work is often helpful.

6. The Bad Stuff

The bad stuff is cancer and infection in the back. This kind of back pain comes on rather quickly and hangs out – relentless. There might be weight loss, fevers, and even lower leg weakness. Though these aren’t emergencies, any kind of sudden onset pain that is excruciating or associated with loss of muscle or nerve function is considered an emergency.

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