Lower back pain is an all too common reality for millions of older adults. Many of these cases occur as a natural result of aging; which is why I’ve often reminded my more mature patients of the adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. In fact, what you are about to read is an abridged version of what I’ve shared with older patients suffering from lower back pain, over the years.
Approximately mature adults 6 million older Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain. The good news is that there are several proactive measures that you can take to alleviate your back pain. These preventative remedies tend to fall into one of two categories – body mechanic techniques or energy conservation tactics.
Here are five ways that you can reduce and manage your back pain, as an older adult.
Body Mechanic Strategies to Prevent Back Pain in Older Adults
- Good Posture – Do not hunch over, when sitting or standing. It is important that you maintain a straight back. You also want to make sure your head is facing forward and your chin is parallel to the floor. Likewise, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders and your arms should be at your side.
- Proper Bending – Instead of twisting during physical activities, try turning your body as a single unit to keep your spine in a comfortable and natural position. Also, when bending, it’s best to bend from the hips rather than using your back.
- Exercise Caution when Lifting Heavy Objects – Heavy objects become dangerous the further you hold them from your body. When carrying heavy items it’s recommended that you hold them closer to your body. Similarly, when lifting objects from the floor, it’s better to lift with your legs, since they are much stronger than your back.
- Manage Your Activities Accordingly – Rather than remain dormant throughout the day, pace yourself by engaging in light activity throughout the day. As an older adult this actually helps you maintain good circulation and it reduces the risk of injury or fatigue.
- Evenly Distribute Your Weight, When Standing – Another great habit to adopt is to evenly distribute your weight, across both legs when standing. The easiest way to do it is to stand with your legs hip-width apart from one another.
While good body mechanics can go a long way towards safeguarding older adults from lower back pain, in and of itself, it’s often not enough. However, when paired with energy conservation techniques, mature adults stand a much better chance of eliminating or preventing back pain altogether. Here are five tactics that you can use to better manage your energy, so that you can get around without over exerting your lower back.
Energy Conservation Techniques to Prevent Back Pain in Older Adults
- Plan Ahead – One way to do this is preparing meals ahead of time. This way you just have to heat up the meals later. Another way is to lay your clothes out ahead of time.
- Set a Rhythm and Pace Yourself – In order to do this, you will need to consider time frames. How much time is needed to complete a task? For example, when doing chores, do one in the morning and one in the evening rather than together.
- Prioritize – For example, when getting together with friends it might be more beneficial to go out with friends for a delightful dinner than spending all day cooking and then having to serve and clean all night.
- Be Balanced. Remember to balance activity with rest – This can be done by using a chair while preparing food so that your back may relax.
- Know Your Activity Tolerance Level – Know how much activity you can take and how much rest you will need to recover. Finding this balance will help keep your back from getting too fatigued or stressed.
These energy reduction strategies are simple to follow and you do not need to spend money or purchase equipment to take advantage of them. Furthermore, they have been proven to reduce physical strain in older adult. Hence, as long as you consistently apply them, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether they will help.
Not only can using these body mechanic techniques in combination with energy conservation tactics help you reduce and manage your pain, but they can also help older adults avoid lower back pain altogether. One parting word of caution is to seek medical advice before you attempt a new regimen or if you are experiencing severe pain, as it could be a symptom of a more serious condition.
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