The Different Types of Back Pain A Guide for Seniors

Updated on December 13, 2021

According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, more than 16 million adults experience chronic back pain. This often limits participation in daily activities and lowers both self-esteem and quality of life.

Economists from Johns Hopkins University report the annual cost of chronic pain, which includes many different types of back pain, reaches $635 billion a year. This is more than annual costs for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

As you get older, back pain may occur. Here’s a look at the main types of back pain you may experience, as well as what you can do about it. 

Nerve Pain

Nerve pain in the back often shoots or radiates from the spine. This kind of back pain comes from a herniated disc that pushes on nerve roots. The radiating pain might go to your legs from the lumbar spine. Or it might go to your arms and hands from the cervical spine.

The most common kind of nerve pain in the back is sciatica. This refers to pain pulsing along the path of the sciatic nerve. This nerve branches to your buttocks, hips, and legs from your lower back. 

Treatment options for those experiencing back pain like this include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Surgery is usually reserved for cases the progressively worse or cause weakness and a loss of bladder control.

Lower Back Pain

While it isn’t unique to individuals over 60, older adults are more likely the ones experiencing back pain. Lower back pain often stems from the degeneration of the joints in the spine. Osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis remain the most common causes in older adults. 

Osteoarthritis of the spine is a degenerative condition that gradually develops. The breakdown of cartilage between facet joints causes this lower back pain. To relieve this pain, combine warm and cold compresses with periodic rest. Weight loss and exercise also help. 

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine. This puts pressure on the nerves that travel through your spine. The lower back and neck are the locations where spinal stenosis happens most often.

Back pain treatments for spinal stenosis include medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Experiencing back pain like this could also result in a decompression procedure or surgery.

For these kinds of back pain, be sure to see a medical professional for the correct diagnosis.


Osteoporosis is a condition that results in brittle or easily breakable bones. When you have this condition, your bone mass decreases at a rate faster than it can be replaced. Calcium, phosphorus, and protein make up your bone mass.

Osteoporosis is among the most serious types of back pain because it puts you at risk for compression fractures. These fractures occur when weak vertebrae collapse. 

Getting calcium, exercise, and vitamin D help lower your risk of osteoporosis. For those experiencing this type of back pain, going to a chiropractor can help. Chiropractors can help with spine adjustments, rehabilitation exercises, and relaxation techniques.

Types of Back Pain and More

Addressing these types of back pain will help improve your quality of life. Dealing with chronic pain can be harmful not only to your physical health but also to your mental well-being. Be sure to consult with your primary care physician. 

Check out the rest of the Health section on our site for more useful information. We stay up to date on all of the latest news, trends, and statistics to help you make informed decisions. Explore the site for more answers.


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