Of all the health problems that senior citizens face, lower back pain is considered the most common. In fact, research shows that it could affect as much as 58 percent of the United States’ senior population.
If you or a loved one are currently struggling with chronic low back pain — whether it’s debilitating or just irritating — these four tips can relieve your pain and help you improve your mobility and quality of life.
1. Stretch Regularly
Low back pain often stems from tight muscles in the legs or hips. Everything is connected, and, if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight, they put extra strain on the low back and can result in chronic pain.
Regular stretching can help loosen up tight muscles, improve flexibility, and relieve pain for seniors (and people of all ages) who struggle with low back pain.
Many yoga classes are dedicated solely to restorative postures, so they’re perfect for seniors who just want to gently stretch their muscles without taking on any challenging or potentially dangerous poses. There are even chair yoga classes that allow seniors to stay seated for the entire duration.
If they don’t have access to yoga classes, there are also lots of free videos online that seniors can follow along with from the comfort of their own home.
2. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Many of the foods that people consume on a daily basis make inflammation worse.
Deep fried foods, baked goods, and foods high in sugar are all inflammatory. This isn’t particularly surprising to most people. But, foods that many people deem healthy can also put a lot of stress on the body from the inside out. For example, products made with wheat (even those that boast being made with whole grains) and no-calorie sweeteners like Splenda are also known to cause inflammation.
Eliminating these inflammatory foods and modifying the diet to be rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce swelling and pain throughout the body, including in the lower back.
Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods seniors should add to their diet on a regular basis include:
Fruit (especially berries)
Vegetables (especially dark leafy greens)
Nuts rich in omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews)
3. Buy a New Mattress
Sometimes, the solution to chronic low back pain is simply a newer, more supportive mattress. Research shows that people with low back pain can see significant improvement by switching to a medium-firm mattress, specifically.
Many people delay buying a new mattress, often because they’re expensive. But, by spending extra money on a new, more comfortable mattress, they could actually end up saving money since they won’t need to continue paying for doctor’s visits or medication to treat their back pain.
Medium-firm mattresses are often ideal for people with low back pain, but, at the end of the day, seniors should buy whichever type of mattress feels most comfortable to them.
When shopping for a new mattress, seniors should consider the manufacturer’s reputation and look for reviews online to see what people are saying about a particular brand or style. They should also look for mattresses that come with a warranty and have a reasonable exchange policy.
4. Invest in Tools that Make Life Easier
Finally, there are lots of tools out there that are specially designed to help seniors modify daily tasks to make them easier and less likely to aggravate a sore back.
For example, a shoe horn can minimize back strain from bending over to put on shoes each day. And, a reach extender can help seniors avoid putting stress on their back when they have to get an object down from a high shelf.
A high-quality low-back pillow can also cushion the lumbar spine and provide extra support for seniors when they’re sitting on the couch or at the table. Some pillows can also serve as a massage tool to provide even more relief.
Low back pain is common among senior citizens, but it’s certainly not inevitable. These four tips can help ease low back and also allow seniors to enjoy more independence and an overall higher quality of life.