Keeping Your Spine Healthy as We Age
Our bodies go through many changes as we age, and this does not exclude our spine. Studies have found that as you age, instances of low back pain in older adults increases. Studies have found that 1 in 3 individuals over the age of 65 report spinal pain. But what is this pain from? There are many normal changes that occur in the spine with age including postural changes of increased thoracic kyphosis and decreased lumbar lordosis. This change in posture alone effects the way your body is supported. Some other changes that occur with age is a decrease in muscle strength, decrease in joint range of motion, decreased sensation and reflexes, and flattening of the spinal discs. These changes have the potential to cause stress on your body leading to pain in your neck or back.
Many people with lower back or neck pain obtain imaging to see what could be causing their irritation, however we have to remember that these changes are a normal part of aging, and studies have shown that there are high rates of false positives and false negatives with imaging studies. It is also important to remember that 60% of individuals who have no pain at all also have these abnormal findings. So to sum up, imaging does not always play a role in diagnosis, everyone responds differently to these changes. The best option would be to obtain conservative treatment before imaging if appropriate
What is conservative treatment you ask? It’s Physical Therapy! Your therapist is trained in evaluating your posture, movement, and strength that all play a role in your day to day activities. They are also trained in screening you for any red flags that may warrant referral back to your doctor. Once evaluated, your therapist is able to create a program for you including posture training, muscle stabilization, endurance, strengthening, and manual techniques that will help you improve those day to day activities that you have been limited in, which could be anything from walking, sleeping, sitting, picking things up off the floor, turning your head while driving, and much more!
Each session will be different for each person based on their needs. This includes (but definitely not limited to) range of motion to help improve or centralize your symptoms, strengthening exercises and functional training like transfers and steps, balance, endurance, joint movement, or outcome measures to track your progress. All of these things in combination with your motivation will help to improve overall postural control to support your spine and functional strength to address activity limitations. Your therapist will classify you based on treatment needs, symptoms, movement control, and functional optimization to allow for the most successful plan of care.
So, in the end, Choose Physical Therapy First!