Any kind of pain is unwelcome, but there’s something about back pain that can really keep you down. Back pain can be caused by a wide number of factors, whether you have bad posture, sleep wrong, or even sit or lay in one spot for too long.
Old injuries, arthritis, sciatica, and a host of other conditions can also cause mild to severe back pain that can ruin the plans you had for your day. Consider some of the top 10 ways for seniors to relieve back pain and don’t let an aching, sore back stop you from enjoying each day.
10 Back Pain Relief Options For Seniors
1.Heat and Cold
Doctors say you don’t necessarily need to go to medication as the first line of defense for back pain. First, try applying heat or cold to your back. You can even alternate these methods for a more effective approach.
Use heat for 20 minutes at a time, then take a break. You can do this for a few days, then switch to ice. A heating pad is the simplest way to apply heat to your back. Using an ice pack wrapped with a lightweight towel is sometimes used to apply cold. If you don’t have a cold pack, wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel.
A great way to relax your back and the rest of your body is to take a warm bath. If you have a pillow for your tub, prop yourself up a bit so that you are comfortable and rest in a warm to hot bath so your muscles can loosen up.
2. Try a Massage
A massage can help unwind the tension in your back, and as you relax your back during a therapeutic massage, you’ll find that the pain may lessen or go away completely. Studies have shown that if you suffer from long-term back pain, a massage each week may help reduce everyday pain significantly.
Massage can also ensure mobility and help align your spine, reduce tension, and assist in overall relaxation, which can help with an achy back.
If you’re not comfortable with a masseuse, you will likely be able to achieve the same or similar results with a licensed physical therapist. Whatever way you look at it, having some hands-on healing can be extremely helpful and comes in a few different forms.
3. A Brand-New Bed
How long has it been since you’ve replaced your mattress? Many of us neglect to do this, but studies show that you’re supposed to replace your mattress with a new one every 8 to 10 years.
Over time, your mattress can become worn-out and thin, meaning it doesn’t give your body the support that it needs and can actually be causing your back more pain. Pillows also play a part in your neck, back, and shoulder pain, so you should replace these more frequently, at least once or twice a year – you’ll be able to tell when they’re looking deflated and not feeling as comfortable or thick.
If you are a sufferer of chronic back pain, doctors recommend sleeping on a firm mattress. A firm mattress offers your back the support that a softer mattress doesn’t. It will also keep your spine aligned properly even while you sleep.
Sometimes purchasing a new mattress and upgrading your pillows can be all you need to say goodbye to back pain.
4. Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Though it may not be the remedy you’d like, certain medications can have an effect on back pain. Doctors don’t recommend popping any over-the-counter remedy, though. Narrow your options down to anti-inflammatory drugs that will target your type of pain for best results.
The best types of medications to take are those that treat inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. These include NSAIDs like Aleve, Advil, and Motrin. These also work on headaches.
If over-the-counter medication doesn’t cut the mustard, talk to your doctor about something a little stronger. There are prescription versions of NSAIDs that may be more effective without being too strong, such as Meloxicam or Celebrex. A low-milligram muscle relaxer could help unwind a tense back, too.
Some of these include Tizanidine or Baclofen. Since the pain can cause your muscles to contract and hurt even more, a muscle relaxer allows them to loosen a bit and therefore alleviate some of the pain you’re feeling. They may also help you sleep if the pain has been keeping you awake.
5. Get Moving
Though you may be tempted to find the nearest couch and lie down when your back starts acting up, doctors say that sometimes the opposite could actually make you feel better.
Opt for low-impact movement when you’re having back pain, especially if it’s hard to move. This can include taking a short walk (and fresh air would be nice!) or a few laps around the pool. Yoga or just a series of stretches to loosen your back up may be helpful.
A routine exercise program for just a half hour a few times a week can help keep your muscles loose and prevent the onset of back pain.
Sometimes when you spend too much time being sedentary, this can make muscles stiffen, and you’ll find that you end up in more pain. Try to add some movement into your day even if you’re hurting – you may be surprised when you feel better afterward!
6. Apply Cream
You may have tried pain medications or pills and found they didn’t really do much for your pain. But have you tried creams?
Sometimes a pain-reducing cream can help reduce your back pain, and it feels good to massage the cream into your back, whether you do it yourself or have someone else do it for you.
Make sure you find a cream that has an active ingredient called capsaicin, or, if you’ve had success with cooling methods to treat back pain, menthol creams could work, too.
There have been studies that prove that menthol can actually help dull your pain receptors. Capsaicin is found in hot peppers. Either of these ingredients may be helpful to you, but don’t go overboard.
Just use as much as you need, because the downside to pain creams is that using it too often or using too much can render them ineffective over time.
7. Slip On Comfortable Shoes
You may not have made this connection yet, but did you know that your shoes can cause you back pain? Supporting your feet means supporting your whole body!
The wrong shoes can affect your posture and cause discomfort which affects how you stand, sit, and walk.
For women, wearing heels isn’t the best decision when you have aches and pains. Men may be suffering in stiff dress shoes. You can find plenty of stylish flats that will give your body more support.
However, you don’t want a completely flat shoe – the best middle ground is a supportive shoe that doesn’t throw your body’s alignment off.
Wearing high heels for years can lead to long-term pain, so it’s not worth it to suffer for the look! There are lots of supportive shoe options for men and women, including loafers, sneakers, and boots with comfortable insoles.
You don’t have to give up on style because of back pain, but wearing heels or skimping on cheap, unsupportive shoes is only going to cause pain over time.
It’s best to talk to a podiatrist about the best type of footwear for you, and though good shoes may cost more upfront, your back will thank you!
8. Go Homeopathic
So, what if you’re more interested in natural healing methods and wish to skip medications and even medicated creams?
There are ways to soothe a strained back with more homeopathic options. Have you ever used arnica?
Arnica is an all-purpose balm people can use for all types of things, including cuts, burns, swelling, and aches and pains.
Try rubbing arnica on your back for relief. There’s no side effects or anything in this cream that should cause any irritation, so it’s worth a try if you’re unsure about the ingredients in other remedies.
You may like having arnica around the house, because it’s a remedy that can have many uses, and some studies have proven its effectiveness for patients who suffer from the pain of osteoarthritis.
9. Sit Up Straight
It was annoying when you were a child when your mom told you to sit up straight all the time and have better posture. It’s even more annoying that she was right.
We hardly notice when we’re hunched down or not sitting up straight, especially since it’s such a common habit when we’re tired or not feeling well.
But have you tried sitting up straight? It makes almost an immediate difference, and best of all, it’s free.
Take notice each time you sit or stand what your posture is like and try to correct it. You could even try an experiment for a week to see if it makes a difference on the pain scale.
If you’re sitting at a table or desk, make sure you’re sitting up instead of leaning over. It seems like a small thing, but it can make a big difference.
10. Eye-Level Entertainment
Look around your home. Your electronics should be at eye level. If you are straining to look up or down at your television, this could be causing back pain.
Looking down at your laptop can hurt your neck, eyes, and back. Move your electronics so it’s comfortable to look at them right at your eye leve., you shouldn’t be adjusting your spine at all to look at even your phone.
If you use your computer frequently, consider placing it on a table or desk while you browse or send emails. If you have a wall-mounted TV, move it ensure you aren’t craning your neck to see a television that’s too high.
Ergonomic chairs, desks, and other furniture can improve your posture, and never bend down improperly or use your back to bend; always bend at the knees when you’re gardening or picking things up.