Just as we discussed cervical spondylosis in our previous blog, here we will discuss another complaint common seen in the 45 plus period. Low back pain is often experienced by people during the middle ages, which is usually due to day-today strain. However, with increasing age, the lumbar spine too undergoes degeneration, resulting in certain problems. Let us understand in detail about age-related low back pain and what lumbar disc herniation is.

Age-Related Low Back Pain

The spine is divided into the neck region (cervical), the thorax region (thoracic), and the lower back region (lumbar). The continuous use of the back for performing various activities exposes the lumbar vertebrae to constant wear and tear. Similar to the changes occurring in the neck vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae too undergo degenerative changes with aging. The cushion in between the vertebrae, called the intervertebral disc often gets damaged. This causes the vertebrae to rub against each other, causing back pain and stiffness. This condition caused due to degeneration of the lumbar spine is also called lumbar spondylosis. The changes occurring in this are called degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine.

Lumbar Disc Herniation

Lumbar disc is present in between the two lumbar vertebrae. Due to ageing, degeneration, continuous pressure of the vertebrae, or weakening of the supporting structures, the outer ring of the disc may crack open. This can easily result in the disc getting displaced from its position and move backward, through the gap between the two vertebrae. This is called a disc bulge or disc protrusion. Depending on the amount of disc protruding, the severity of the condition and treatment is decided. If most of the disc is moved out, it is called lumbar disc prolapse or lumbar disc herniation.

Some people may experience a catch or a sudden pain like feeling in the back while bending or lifting weight while some may not have any such history. Vehicular accidents, sports injuries, sudden jerks, or trauma to the back too can result in this condition.
Commonly called ‘slipped disc’, this condition can be painful for some, while some may not be aware of it. When present, this often causes symptoms like severe low back pain, stiffness, inability to move the back, pain radiating to the buttocks, back of thighs and legs (sciatica). Some may also find it difficult to walk, raise legs, or sit for long. In severe cases, if the nerve is injured, the bowel and bladder control may be affected.

The most effective treatment is medications, physical therapy including traction, in some cases. Surgery may be considered for severe cases.

Why is it important for 45 plus?

It is necessary to understand how this condition can affect you. By being aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatment, you can take the right steps and protect your health in the best possible way. Experts believe that people in the 45 plus age group are at greater risk of degenerative disc disease, while other factors may add to the problems.

Low back pain can be due to various reasons like overuse or strenuous activities, inappropriate postures, sudden movements, injuries or trauma, accidents, and other medical conditions. You may be surprised to know that physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle is also one of the major causes of low back pain. Also, excess body weight and more fat around the waist can contribute to the pain. Injuries to the back too can make the musculature weak and result in chronic low back pain.

If these factors are not controlled and managed, the wear and tear of the lumbar vertebrae can be faster than expected. It can result in early degeneration and increase your risk of lumbar disc problems.

Degeneration of the lumbar spine involves the weakening of the vertebrae, soft tissues like muscles and ligaments supporting the joints and the intervertebral disc. The discs play an important role in protecting your spinal vertebrae as they act as shock absorbers and allow natural movement of the spine. However, due to excessive wear and tear or changes with ageing, the discs can get dehydrated or get worn out and offer less support and flexibility.

These changes are continuously occurring in your body since adulthood. But while your body stays young and active, also the changes are very early ones, you may not notice them. However, the symptoms may gradually appear during midlife as your age advances, more changes occur and your fitness levels decline. For some, the nutritional factors, pregnancy, and other hormone-related problems too also play an important role.

At this stage, you may experience low back pain or some stiffness in your back. If this is due to natural changes without any underlying medical condition, further damage can be prevented in most cases. With the right action of improving your health, diet, and exercise routine you may be able to control it. Some people may need medical treatment for symptoms, whereas therapeutic exercises and physical therapy may help in most cases.

Lifestyle modifications, yoga therapy, weight management, and dietary approaches can help a great deal. Experts often consider nutritional supplements, particularly those with calcium, vitamin D3 may be helpful during 45 plus period.

Some people may experience symptoms earlier than others, depending on their risk factors. However, for most people in the 45 plus period is more crucial as the degenerative changes not only begin showing up but also warn you of potentially serious problems in the future. Hence, timely care is important – simply said – do not ignore your low back pain. In our next blog, we will discuss the ways to reduce your risk of age-related neck and back problems.

Dr Snehal Singh
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