Eight positive actions you can take to prevent back pain after the age of 40
Don’t fancy the idea of living with chronic back pain as you get older? Here are eight positive actions you can take to prevent back pain after the age of 40.
There are many good things to look forward to as you age, such as greater confidence, wisdom and inner peace. But, as our body ages and goes through the menopause, there are also increasing health challenges we need to cope with.
However, we don’t believe in passively sitting back and accepting things we don’t want. Which is why we’re always seeking out positive, proactive solutions to keep us healthy and happy.
And one common symptom of ageing that’s all too easy to accept as an unavoidable given is back pain. From not sitting correctly to spraining your back through lifting poorly, there are many causes of back pain. And many sufferers of it (apparently 8 in 10 of us will experience it at some point in our life).
Eight ways to prevent back pain after the age of 40
So, if you don’t simply want to accept you need to live with back pain as you get older, what can you do to prevent it? Aside from using something like an inversion table, here eight positive actions you can take to beat pack pain after the age of 40.
1) Exercise regularly
Your spine requires regular movement to function well, so it’s essential to keep physically active. It doesn’t matter what you do: swimming, gym, dance, netball, Pilates… the important thing is to find an activity you enjoy, as you’ll be more likely to keep it up.
Daily stretching is also good for you, and spending a few minutes every morning practising some yoga positions will more than repay your efforts.
2) Strengthen your core muscles
Your core muscles can be found along the front of your abdomen (the ones that run along your neck and lower back, and those on your vertebral column). Weak core muscles can significantly contribute to back pain, as they force the other structures supporting your spine (such as your back muscles) to work harder.
The plank, push ups, squats, hip lifts, lunges with twist, plank on a balance ball, and superman are all good strengthening exercises for your core muscles. And if you’re practising yoga, these positions are all great for core strengthening:
- Boat pose.
- Cat post.
- Chair Pose.
- Crane (Crow) Pose.
- Dolphin Plank Pose.
- Dolphin Pose.
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
- Happy Baby Pose.
3) Avoid lifting heavy objects
Whenever you carry something heavy you are putting strain on the muscles in your lower back area. This is why you need to be careful about how much you carry, and how you lift it.
This is compounded, as you get older, with decreasing strength. So don’t assume you can easily lift the same amount weight as when you were younger.
If you want to maintain your strength, then book a session with a personal trainer and learn safe weightlifting techniques appropriate for your strength and age. Or work strength-building exercises and activities into your life.
Working with resistance bands, heavy gardening (such as digging and shovelling), climbing stairs, hill walking cycling and dancing are all good for muscle strengthening too.
4) Let your spine properly rest at night
Your back takes an enormous amount of pressure in the day time as you stand, walk, stretch and lift. So nighttime, when you’re flat in bed and relatively inert, is your back’s chance to recover.
This is why it’s essential to invest in a good quality mattress and pillow; your spine needs the right amount of support. And while it’s not always easy to control the positions your body ends up in while you’re asleep, here are the optimum sleeping positions to help alleviate back pain:
- Sleeping on your back with knee support.
- Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees.
- Sleeping in the fetal position.
- Sleeping on your front with pillow under your stomach.
- Sleeping on your front with your head face down.
- Sleeping on your back in a reclined position.
5) Get enough calcium
The older we get, the more at risk we are of losing bone density – leading sometimes to osteoporosis. And the bad news as a woman is that demineralisation occurs at faster rate after menopause. (According to experts, one in two middle aged women suffer from low bone density.)
The good news however, is that a diet enriched with dairy has been shown to help prevent bone loss in the spine. So make sure you eat a bone-friendly diet, and take supplements if needed. Other preventative measures including getting enough sunlight (Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium), regular exercise and checkups.
6) Stop smoking
Studies have found that smokers are three times more likely to develop chronic back pain. So if you do nothing else after the age of 40 to to improve your back health, it’s a good idea to give up smoking! (Of course, reducing your chances of back pain is just one of the many benefits you’ll enjoy as a non-smoker…)
7) Reduce stress
It’s widely accepted that back pain is one of the symptoms of stress and anxiety. And it makes sense: when you’re feeling stressed your muscles tense up. Indeed, constantly worrying keeps your entire nervous system on high alert, causing all kind of unwanted health issues. (You can read here how easy it is to ‘worry yourself into pain’.)
So what can you do? Simply telling yourself not to get stressed is easier said than done. We’ve published several articles with strategies and simple techniques you can use to manage stress. Here are some of our favourites:
- The seven biggest mistakes stressed women make
- Six powerful strategies to cope with stress
- Tired, stressed or depressed? When to go to your GP
- An easy mindfulness exercise you can use anywhere, any time
8) Get treatment
If you are suffering from chronic back pain, don’t put up with it. It may be something that can be easily treated.
Nine years after having my youngest child I had accepted that chronic back pain and stiffness in the morning was just a part of life. I’d spoken to my GP about the pain, been x-rayed, had blood tests and seen two hospital physiotherapists. But no one had been able to diagnose or treat it effectively.
Then, out of frustration one day, I booked an appointment with an osteopath. In a one hour session she diagnosed exactly what was wrong and treated it. And nine years of back pain and stiffness disappeared for good.
So if you too are suffering from any form of back pain, please don’t suffer in silence. Be proactive and persistent in seeking out help. You never know, you could like me be suffering unnecessarily.
Don’t accept back pain after 40 – take positive action!
You don’t need to passively accept that back pain is just part and parcel of getting older. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
As you can read, there are plenty of positive actions you can take to continue enjoying good back health, and look forward to an active and pain-free future.
Photo by Romina Farias