Back Pain and Seniors


While wine and old cheese get better with age, the same cannot be said about the aging human. If a young person suffers from back and spine problems this is only likely to get worse as the person grows older.

Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis

Common causes of back pain in seniors are from osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. However, there are still many other problems that can cause back pain. The first step is to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor and an orthopedic surgeon to determine which of the many medical problems is triggering the back pain. In fact, back pain can be from more than one condition. For instance, back pain can be from orthopedic cervical and lumbar disc problems, stress, muscle spasms, arthritis and osteoarthritis, kidney infections, kidney stones, gall bladder stones, viral infections, pneumonia, meningitis, uterine infections and prolapse, urinary tract infections (UTI), prostate problems, tumors and cancer, including pancreatic cancer and more. The doctor, will order lab blood tests and X-ray, CT, MRI or ultrasound. Only after receiving the true picture, can a decision be made concerning which is the best treatment therapy regime to follow.

Chiropractic Medicine

If the back pain is from a spine or disc problem, the best option is to take all lab results, x-ray and imaging scans to a qualified chiropractor. A slipped disc can give you agonizing back pain that radiates down your legs like sciatica or down your shoulders, arms and hands from your neck (Cervical radiculopathy). Strong painkillers may temporarily relieve the pain, but do not cure the problem that is causing it.

Chiropractors will usually use deep heat or compresses and a traction-like machine to warm up your back. Then they will gently manipulate the spine to correct conditions like misaligned discs that are pinching on nerves. Once the back is properly aligned, the chiropractor will recommend an exercise program to strengthen your back muscles, so that the problem will not come back.

Exercise, Physical Therapy and Water Therapy

If the back pain is from osteoarthritis, the best treatment is to do physical exercises to strengthen muscles surrounding the joints and to keep the joints open and flexible. Otherwise the joints become fossilized, will no longer move and will become more stiff and painful. Osteoarthritis is a major cause of disability in seniors. Exercise, especially stretching, is crucial for keeping the joints flexible. Physical exercise also improves blood circulation, helps maintain proper weight, improves self-confidence and promotes relaxation and better sleep. Physical therapy, especially swimming and water therapy are considered to be among the best non-drug treatments.

Water Therapy

Water therapy – also called aquatic therapy, is very relaxing and reduces weight put on the joints. A qualified aquatic therapist teaches physical exercises to people in a pool, which is usually heated. In the pool, people find themselves able to do exercises without pain that they would never be able to do out of water. This also produces a lot of good feelings.

Land Based Exercises

There are many exercises that can help to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. However, it is imperative to learn how to do them from a qualified physical therapist, as not all exercises are suitable for everyone and in fact can sometimes do more harm than good. Physical therapists are especially trained to know which exercises are beneficial and which ones should be avoided when treating osteoarthritis.


Acupuncture can also do a lot to heal painful back problems, especially when other treatments fail. Acupuncture is also safer than manipulation treatments in patients suffering from osteoporosis. Acupuncture can treat back, knee and hip pain from osteoarthritis, muscle and ligament sprains, and neuralgias like those from shingles (herpes zoster). Many people have been saved from surgery by choosing acupuncture in cases where other treatment options did not succeed. Acupuncture is the use of tiny, sterile needles inserted into the skin at special nerve points to alleviate pain, strengthen the back and promote healing (at least 7-10 or more treatments). It is crucial to use a licensed qualified acupuncturist. In the US, licensing of qualified practitioners of acupuncture is by the states and the requirements vary from state to state. In fact, a few states only allow MDs, chiropractors or osteopaths to practice acupuncture.

Massage and Compresses

Extra-virgin olive oil can be rubbed into inflamed joints before going to bed at night and before getting out of bed in the morning. It is quickly absorbed into the skin.

A hot castor oil pack reduces inflammation and thus helps against back pain including muscle spasms, arthritis and sprains. It stimulates the flow of lymph and speeds up healing. Castor oil should be massaged into the back and covered with flannel that also has castor oil on it (not soaking)  and a hot water bottle for at least an hour.

Hot Mineral Sulfur Pools

For thousands of years people have sought relief for the suffering of arthritis, painful back and neck problems, sore and tight muscles and sprains in hot mineral – mainly sulfur pools. This is one of the best ways to get rid of inflammation and stress. Some of these hot springs and pools have spas on their premises that also offer various kinds of healing like chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, reflexology and various types of massages.

Caution: Hot thermal pools can lower blood pressure, so seniors on blood pressure lowering drugs or with cardiovascular problems must not immerse in hot mineral pools without the permission of their doctors.


Studies show that eating broccoli may prevent or slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.

Extra-virgin olive oil  has been scientifically shown to have pain-relieving qualities similar to Ibuprofen, but without any side effects. Use only extra-virgin olive oil in all cooking, baking, frying (low temperature), salads and vegetables. Dip bread in olive oil that can be spiced up by mixing it with crushed garlic or oregano.


Back pain in seniors is often from osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. However, it can be from many other causes including cervical and  lumbar disc problems, viruses, infections, tumors, kidney and gall bladder problems, cancer and more. Back pain should not be ignored but must have a proper medical diagnosis. Various therapy treatments are available.

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