Back pain is one of the areas that we think gets worse as we get older but is this true? We often think that as we get older we will get more aches and pains. To find out researchers scoured all the research on the topic to see if a trend could be found. Brighton chiropractor, Matthew Bennett, sums up the latest research.
It is reasonable to assume that back pain, or lumbago as it sometimes called, will worse as we get older because of the accumulation of wear and tear, arthritis and general use and abuse. As we get older we tend to exercise less, pick up more injuries in falls and generally recover more slowly from trauma, especially in the back. In spite of this the studies over the last 10 years don’t show an increase in back ache beyond the age of 60. In fact, in some studies, back pain actually seemed to be less frequent over the age of 60 compared to the years leading up to 60.
Why doesn’t back pain get worse as we get older?
There are several theories why back pain does not get worse as we get older. It could be that the people in the research just happened to be born at a time when they were very fit and robust naturally. Computer games, television and dishwashers were not around 60 years ago so people were growing up then were less sedentary. This may be the answer. Only a study that follows a large number of people for the whole of their lives would tell and this has not been done yet.
Another theory is that we get more tolerant to pain as we get older; our pain threshold goes up perhaps. The most likely explanation seems to be, however, that we do less physically demanding activities in old age so we don’t injure our backs so much. There are not many rugby players, mountain bike riders or kick boxers over the age of 60! Also we tend to stop work around this time. So if work posture or activity, or even work stress is the factor that brings the back ache on then stopping work might help prevent future occurrences.
Here at Sundial the average age of our patients is 38. Central Brighton has a younger demographic than other parts of the country where the average age of patients with back pain is around 45. That is not to say we don’t get people in their 60’s and 70’s coming in – we do, but the peak age to get back pain is in the younger, early middle aged groups. We also treat a few teenages with back pain which brings the average down.
If you are getting back pain and want to see if chiropractic or physio treatment can help you then pop in for a free check. We can also advise on a few simple exercises that you can do at home to keep your back healthy and pain free.
Does back and neck pain become more common as you get older? A systematic literature review. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2012, 20:24
Further research on the prevalence of bone and joint problems in older people show all sorts of aches and pains do continue into old age. Women tend to get more pain than men.