Older adults are particularly prone to experiencing back pain, typically caused by wear and tear on the spinal structure, discs, and joints. With back pain, many women find it easier to ignore and manage it, assuming it’s just age-related. It is not always. It’s imperative to have any sort of pain examined by a physician to ensure nothing more serious is happening.
Back pain becomes an emergency when accompanied by fever, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, weakness or numbness in the extremities, bladder or bowel incontinence, and numbness in the buttocks, perineum, and inner thighs. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical evaluation and care. If left untreated, it could progress to organ damage, paralysis, or fatality in some cases.
Depending on the presumed cause, the solution may be as simple as wearing a back brace, or there may need to be further investigation.
Cause #1: Arthritis
Degenerative arthritis of the spine, aka osteoarthritis, is a breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints of the spine. This condition, sometimes without pain, occurs in 89% of adults aged 65 and over.
The symptoms, if you feel any, can be the most intense pain first thing in the morning and towards the end of the day, localized tenderness, lower back pain aggravated by prolonged activity, and stiffness or loss of flexibility. Most women wear a back brace to provide relief and support.
Cause #2: Osteoporosis
Hormonal changes after menopause make women more susceptible to osteoporosis-related fractures. The bones that make up the spine start to crumple and collapse over time.
Roughly 1 in 4 women post-menopause suffer from a vertebral compressor fracture. The older an individual is, the more likely they will experience an osteoporosis-related back injury.
Cause #3: Spinal Stenosis
Another very common cause of back pain in elderly women is spinal stenosis. This is when the openings in the spine narrow, placing more pressure where the nerves travel down the spine, thereby causing pain.
The pain is more pronounced when walking or standing upright and is usually relieved when someone is seated. For spinal stenosis, surgery may be required to realign the spine.
Cause #4: Spinal Infection
A spinal infection is life-threatening and is caused by an infection of the bones. This is an example of a cause of back pain that necessitates quick treatment. I
f you have recently been in hospital for surgery, received an injection, or have an infection present elsewhere in the body, complications from any of these circumstances may result in an infection spreading to the spinal column and causing back pain.
Cause #5: Tumors and Cancer
While spinal tumours may cause back pain in elderly women, it is rare. Less than 1% will see their back pain explained by a tumour, most of which is metastasis.
The usual symptoms of a spinal tumour mirror that of other causes, with the pain aggravated by movement, worse at night, and difficult-to-impossible to ease with rest.
Cause #6: Organ-Related Back Pain
Most back pain discussed here relates to the spine. However, sometimes, you may have pain only on one side of the back. This may indicate it’s related to an organ.
Suppose it’s achy and generalized, as opposed to sharp. In that case, this is another sign it could be tied to an organ, such as the kidneys, colon, appendix, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or reproductive organs, such as endometriosis or fibroids, causing it.
Cause #7: Non-Specific Back Pain
Non-specific back pain does not have a defined pathology or cause. It’s not from a fracture, injury, or inflammation. It is often tied to disc degeneration, a natural aging process. It can cause pain in some adults, while in most, it does not. As disc degeneration is not treatable, alterations in posture and activity, and aids such as a back brace, can prove helpful in managing discomfort.
How to Treat Back Pain
In addition to using a back brace and similar devices, if you are dealing with non-specific back pain or discomfort not caused by something serious, there may be ways to make life a little easier. Moderate physical activity, healthy eating, quitting smoking, medications, and exploring different treatments with a health professional are all things to try. Treating psychological distress has also diminished some back pain’s intensity.
More Devices to Help with Back Pain
Many older women with back pain may be searching for ways to cope and help with the discomfort while they carry on with their usual. There is, fortunately, lots out there in the form of devices. TENS machines are excellent for muscular-related back pain. Heat wraps can help reduce stiffness in the back. Posture correctors are helpful, which may go hand-in-hand with a back brace. Acupressure mats, topical treatments, and massagers may also be potential things to try if you’re comfortable.