People once used to think of low back pain as something only old people have to deal with. The truth, though, is that back problems can affect you at any age.
Are you one of the over 540 million people worldwide who experience low back pain on a regular basis? Do you deal with pain in other parts of your back? Read on to learn more about “old man back”, what causes it, and the average age at which most people start to experience it.
Average Age of Back Pain Sufferers
Most people who struggle with back pain start experiencing symptoms around age 40. The average age of back pain sufferers in the United States is between 40 and 60 years old.
However, that could change in the future. The numbers of young people (folks in their 20s and 30s) experiencing back pain are on the rise. They’ll likely start to increase, too, especially as folks continue to live sedentary lifestyles.
What Causes Back Pain?
Speaking of lifestyle, there are a lot of lifestyle factors that can contribute to back pain. Spending long periods of time sitting or standing in one position, for example, can put a strain on the back (especially the lower back). This pain might be exacerbated even more if you’re also staring at a computer screen or hunching over a smartphone or tablet for hours on end.
According to resources like the Healthy Back Institute, in addition to a lack of movement, there are plenty of other issues that can cause back pain, including the following:
Strains from Repeated Movements
Does your job require you to perform the same movements over and over again throughout the day? Are you constantly picking things up off of the floor or reaching for things on a high shelf?
If this is the case, these repeated movements could cause muscle and ligament strains. This could lead to chronic pain in the lower back or pain in the middle of the back.
Bulging or Ruptured Discs
Sometimes, the problem is structural. If you have a bulging or ruptured disc (or discs), that can compress the nerves of the spine and lead to back pain. The easiest way to identify disc issues is through an x-ray.
Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when a person starts to lose bone density. It’s very common among older adults, but some people start to develop it when they’re younger (in their 30s or 40s, for example). Osteoporosis can lead to back pain and an increased risk of fractures and other injuries.
Being Overweight or Obese
Folks who are overweight or obese are often more prone to back pain than those who are at a normal weight. Being overweight or obese can place more stress on the joints. This, in turn, can cause pain, stiffness, and soreness and make it difficult for a person to perform everyday activities.
Sometimes, psychological conditions like depression or anxiety can manifest themselves as chronic pain. If you’ve had your spine looked at by a doctor and they can’t identify anything wrong from a physical perspective, you might need to do some inner work with a therapist to get to the root of the problem.
Some people struggle to differentiate between kidney pain vs back pain. If you have kidney stones or other kidney problems, you might notice severe back pain or a burning sensation in the back. Kidney stones can also cause pain in the lower right back.
Tips for Managing Back Pain
The first step to handling back pain is figuring out what’s causing it. From there, you can start working to correct the problem. The following are some of the most effective tips you can try to relieve your “old man back” symptoms:
At first, this might seem counterintuitive. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to manage back pain, though. Engaging in low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or slow weight training can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles and make them more resilient.
Many people also benefit from hot-cold therapy. Alternating between applying a hot water bottle or heating pad and applying ice to the painful areas can improve blood flow, minimize inflammation, and reduce stiffness. Doing this on a regular basis can work wonders for folks with back pain, especially after a very long day at work.
When you’re dealing with major lower back pain, it often helps to recruit the assistance of a physical therapist. Physical therapists can teach you specific exercises geared toward stretching and strengthening the back muscles (as well as other muscles that might be affecting the back, such as the hamstrings or glutes). They can put together a plan that’s designed especially for you and targets your pain at the source.
Massage promotes relaxation and can help those dealing with tight or strained muscles. It’s most effective when it’s combined with another type of treatment, like hot-cold therapy or physical therapy, but it’s still a good option to have in your tool kit.
Finally, don’t’ forget about chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic care often involves a chiropractor manually adjusting your spine (cracking your back or neck) with their hands or special tools to realign it. This is very helpful for treating back pain, especially pain that’s caused by bulging or ruptured discs.
Get Rid of “Old Man Back” Today
As you can see “old man back” definitely isn’t only for the elderly. People of all ages can struggle with back pain for a variety of reasons.
Now that you know more about what causes back pain, as well as what you can do to treat and prevent it, it’s time to get to work. Keep this advice in mind so you can start living pain-free as soon as possible.
Do you want to learn more about pain management? If so, we have plenty of helpful resources on our blog. Check out this article on common knee pain causes next.