Getting Older Does Not Cause Back Pain

We all know that as we age our bodies change. Naturally, our joints, bones, soft tissue and organs suffer from the passage of time. The years bring age-related wear and tear on the joints and lower back pain is common among the over 65s. MRI scans confirm that degenerative changes of the spine are typical of older age groups.

But this doesn’t mean that the pain itself is related to these changes and must automatically get worse year by year. Surprisingly, scans of pain-free people show that they are just as likely to show these same spinal degenerations. These ‘abnormal’ changes are in fact normal among older people.

In other words, degenerative changes are just symptoms of ageing. They are not necessarily the cause of pain.

Ageing and pain perception

Why does it hurt so much? Is that related to getting older?
As we age, our brains change (along with everything else) and begin to perceive pain differently. Although studies show that the pain threshold in the over-60s increases, so does the perception of the intensity of pain.

That means that although the pain is the same, we notice it later and then it feels worse.

Managing Pain Perception

Understanding pain is a proven way to manage it. Techniques which involve decreasing the perceived harmfulness of pain – reframing the pain as ‘not dangerous’ – involve daily practice in relaxation and observation. This is an effective method for many people, as it creates a non-judgemental state of mind and helps to control the imagination, get things into perspective and plan a fulfilling life outside the control of pain.

Here’s a 15 minute mindfulness video to help you get into the habit of relaxing as you manage pain perception.

So, looking after our mental wellness as well as our physical health affects the way we perceive and handle pain. And that’s something we can all do because emotional wellbeing is related to so many aspects of daily life. For example, it’s important to build in a sense of autonomy by being in control of your own decisions, find meaning in work or leisure, and make and maintain social connections. In older age groups, especially after retirement, we might find our circle of friends and activities diminish. If you notice this happening, it’s time to plan new activities, get into stimulating hobbies and get involved in your community.

Here’s a short video about low-impact exercises for back pain

Go for it!

You can benefit from evidence-based treatments at any age. Don’t forget to book in for a check-up with the experts here at Sundial.


Low back pain in older adults: risk factors, management options and future directions – PMC

Age-Related Changes in Pain Perception Are Associated With Altered Functional Connectivity During Resting State