2. Back pain is what happens when you get old.
George Bernard Shaw said it best, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” Humans are biological creatures. We develop, grow, mature, and then start to degenerate. These degenerative changes are inevitable, but there are a few ways we can maintain our activities of daily living for a much longer time.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) “Aging is associated with changes in dynamic biological, physiological, environmental, psychological, behavioral, and social processes. Some age-related changes are benign, such as graying hair. Others result in declines in function of the senses and activities of daily life and increased susceptibility to and frequency of disease, frailty, or disability.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/aging-well-21st-century-strategic-directions-research-aging/understanding-dynamics-aging
While the last sentence may sound ominous, there are strategies to help slow down the aging process substantially such as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate amounts of sleep, maintaining healthy relationships, and getting a substantial amount of physical activity. The degenerative changes that can be seen on x-ray for example, do not tell the whole story. There are people with perfectly “normal” x-rays that are experiencing chronic pain, and people with significant degenerative findings on x-ray that are completely pain free! Pain science is incredibly fascinating, complex, and constantly evolving. (It will make for a great blog series in the future.) For all intents and purposes, we will focus on the fact that degenerative changes DO NOT always cause pain.
A recent 2017 study looked at the correlation between sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass, and chronic low back pain. The study concluded, “Elderly patients with CLBP have significantly lower skeletal muscle mass, and age-related mechanisms in sarcopenia are considered to be associated with chronic pain. Therapeutic procedures that are used to treat elderly aging muscle, including muscle strengthening and performance training, can possibly be a treatment for or used to prevent elderly CLBP.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6372819/
There are a plethora of studies coming out on the benefits of resistance training as an anti-aging tool. The benefits of resistance training go far beyond just physical health, but as you can see from the picture below, staying physically active later in life can allow you to maintain your activities of daily living, usually without pain, for much longer.
The great news is that most of these contributors are modifiable factors, meaning we can make small changes to our lifestyles in order to live our best lives. Getting older does not mean you will have low back pain, the answer is much more nuanced than that. Being less active, not eating healthy, poor sleeping habits, not having good relationships, having a low sense of self-worth, and having excess adipose tissue are some of the biggest contributing factors to low back pain. A 2011 study published in Spine journal concluded, “…greater fat, but not lean tissue mass, was associated with high levels of low back pain intensity and disability.” https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2011/07150/2011_Young_Investigator_Award_Winner___Increased.10.aspx
Stay strong. Stay recharged.
***No content on this site should be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.***