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The aging spine

Conditions That Affect An Aging Spine

Aging processes are completely normal – especially since we haven’t yet found the fountain of youth. As you get older, natural processes of decay affect your health in distinct ways. In particular, your spine – which is the central communication tower for your body – undergoes aging processes that can cause certain conditions.

By learning about these aging-related spinal conditions, you better prepared to prevent them and seek professional medical care if you experience them. Let’s go into the details of these spinal conditions.

Conditions That Affect An Aging Spine: Spondylosis, Spinal Stenosis, and Bone Spurs

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is an aging-related condition that causes your spine to compress. This narrowing places pressure on your nerves, especially in your lower back and neck. Common symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Numbness in your extremes
  • Muscular weakness in your extremes
  • Balance problems

Generally speaking, spinal stenosis is caused by aging. However, specifically it can be complicated or caused by the following conditions:

  • Wear-and-tear of your spine (i.e. aging)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Bone disease
  • Herniated disks
  • Thickened vertebrae
  • Tumors

The key to living with spinal stenosis is exercise – as well as other therapies that we’ll go over at the end of this article.

Spondylosis

Spondylosis is a common aging condition that affects 85% of seniors older than 60. Spondylosis is simply a fancy name for wear-and-tear of your spinal disks. As you get older, these disks will decay and compress together, causing arthritis and possibly bone spurs.  

There are no specific symptoms of spondylosis, though when these discs become compressed, you may feel tingling, numbness, weakness, balance problems and difficulty walking. A few key causes of spondylosis include dehydrated discs, herniated discs, bone spurs, and stiff joints, which all occur as a result of aging.

There’s no cure-all for spondylosis, but it can be managed with some self-care remedies, including diet and exercise.

Osteoarthritis

Finally, osteoarthritis is a common aging condition that occurs in your joints – especially your hands, knees, hips, and spine – as a result of bone decay. This condition can be painful because as bones wear down, they grate against each other. In addition, other symptoms include:

  • Pain an aging spine can come with joint problems
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Bone spurs

Osteoarthritis can be managed with certain treatments, especially with exercise and weight loss.

Self-care remedies for spinal conditions

In general, these three spinal conditions can’t be cured. However, there are plenty of self-care actions you can take so that your pain is reduced and your lifestyle boosted. You’ll want to adapt these self-care remedies for your specific condition and physical state.  

  • Use hot and cold packs: Hot and cold packs can help you get quick pain relief. Try using a cold cloth and then switching to a hot one for maximum relief.
  • Take capsaicin, white willow bark and/or devil’s claw: These herbal supplements are proven to have anti-inflammatory properties and play a role in reducing back pain in the long-run. In particular, white willow bark is considered “nature’s aspirin,” for its effective and natural way of giving pain relief.
  • Work out regularly: Exercising regularly, especially aerobic workouts such as swimming, biking and walking are extremely important. Exercise can help relieve stiffness and tension in your joints, as well as build strength and flexibility in the muscular groups that support spinal health.
  • Use daily warm-up and cool-down exercises: Warm-up and cool-down exercises are key if you’re exercising regularly. If you have stiff or tense muscles, you’ll want to stretch them before doing more intensive exercise. In addition, daily stretching can help your spinal condition by helping flexibility and range of motion.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: It’s a good idea to lose weight if you’re suffering from a spinal condition. Being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on your joints and cause your vertebrae to compress even more. In general, try following an anti-inflammatory diet, which focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and whole grains.
  • Try out a cane, walker, footwear, and/or braces: Supportive devices such as canes, walkers, footwear and/or braces may also help you maintain movement as you get older. These devices are especially helpful if they allow you to continue to exercise and stretch as you age.
  • Check your posture: Watch the way you’re sitting, standing and sleeping. Make sure you’re not slouching or letting your spine collapse when you sit. Having poor posture can aggravate your spinal condition and make your muscles more stiff and tense.
  • Call a physical therapist: Physical therapy is effective especially when patients aren’t sure what kinds of stretches or exercises they’re physically capable of. A physical therapist can help build strength, flexibility and balance with a customized plan that will help you improve your spinal health and reduce pain.
  • Sign up for tai chi and yoga: New studies suggest that tai chi and yoga can help your joint health. In general, both these exercises use a mind-body approach that can aid in boosting flexibility and fluidity, while promoting relaxation, mindfulness and stress reduction.

Contact a chiropractor near you

Visit a chiropractor near you, or visit Better Health Chiropractic in Juneau for an adjustment or for spinal decompression because it may reduce pain symptoms and help restore certain positions so that your spinal condition isn’t as invasive. A chiropractor can also help you look at your diet, exercise, supplementation, and other therapies to reduce pain with spinal conditions.

We hope that learning more about these aging-related spinal conditions will help you take control of your spinal health!

About Dr. Brent Wells

Call a doctor about your aging spineDr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic in Juneau. He became passionate about being a chiropractor after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

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