Avoiding back pain in your 50s and beyond

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A leading London Osteopath, Mr Michael Fatica, says back pain need not be an inevitable part of our 50s and beyond, but that with the right exercise we can protect ourselves and lead happier, healthier lives.

Mr Fatica's top tips and advice on avoiding back pain:

  • Keep active: the biggest cause of muscle wastage in this age group is inactivity, which leads to a rapid reduction in muscle strength and causes the posture to deteriorate quite rapidly. So, while stretching is great for maintaining flexibility, its simply not enough to adequately stimulate and strengthen the supportive muscles surrounding the spine.
  • Regular low impact exercise: consistent and regular activity that involves strengthening muscles, such as core ‘vacuum’ exercises and swimming – this is low impact yet gives back muscles a full work-out – and is a simple and gentle, yet highly effective program that I would recommend to patients to both prevent and alleviate chronic back pain.
  • It's avoidable: contrary to popular belief, back pain is mostly avoidable and not something you simply have to put up with it for the rest of your life. Fully understanding the cause of your pain, undergoing the most relevant examinations and gaining the right advice is crucial. A patient who also takes ownership of their body at home and is diligent with their rehab will be able to enjoy a life free from back pain.
  • Don’t ignore it: don't assume a back/neck issue will simply ‘go away’ and heal itself. Those with a history of back problems tend to require more treatment than those who suffer a random ‘injury’ at this age. However, when managed well, injuries or strains tend to still resolve themselves quickly, but swift intervention is vital.
  • Sleep well: try to sleep on your side whenever possible, with the spine in a neutral position - always try to avoid the ‘curled up’ position. Ensure your neck is properly supported and place a pillow between the knees if your back is particularly sore. Don’t immediately sit ‘straight up’ in the morning – remember instead to always get out of bed safely on your side. 
  • Night walks: for those with degenerative back or neck pain, sleep can often become restless after 4-6 hours sleep. This is because inflammation tends to ‘pool’ in the lower back and is exacerbated by our tendency to adopt a period of ‘stillness’ and inactivity before bedtime. A good way of reducing this pain and help ensure a good night’s sleep for longer is to take part in a short burst of activity before sleep.  Even just walking around the house for 10 minutes right before bed will help to pump out any residual inflammation. Placing ice over the spine for five minutes can also be highly effective. 
  • Vitamins: helping to prevent scoliosis (where the spine has a sideways curve) starts in your childhood and teenage years, but it’s never too late to adopt a preventative regime against it - vitamin D supplements, calcium and regular monitoring of hormone levels is particularly important, as well as a good exposure to sunlight (UV protected of course).
  • Look after your bones: while it’s difficult to ‘look out’ for osteoporosis, it’s highly advisable to organise a DEXA scan rather than leave things to chance. This is particularly important for the more slim, inactive or post-menopausal individuals who are more susceptible to developing this condition. With bone density, early detection is tremendously helpful.

The Mayfair Clinic, London, is one of the UK’s leading osteopathic clinics, providing patients with the very best osteopathic treatment available for back pain, neck pain and sciatica. It is also the only osteopathic clinic in the UK able to provide their unique combination of state-of-the-art technologies to treat back and neck pain – ‘The Mayfair Method’.

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