The human spine changes over time. Discs naturally wear, flexibility declines, and spine-supporting tissues and joints may be affected by underlying health issues like arthritis. While there is nothing that can be done to stop the spine, or the rest of your body, from aging, there are steps that can be taken to keep your back and its supporting structures as healthy as possible as you age.
You don't need to join a gym to get enough exercise to improve your spine's flexibility and keep its supporting muscle groups strong. Daily exercise can be based on your abilities and involve gentle stretches that also help with posture. Spine-friendly exercises can also include:
- Water-based activities (swimming, water aerobics)
- Controlled movement exercises (yoga, Pilates)
- Enjoyable daily activities (gardening, walking)
Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule
Physical changes that occur with age can affect sleep habits and patterns. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule allows your back to naturally heal. If you're having difficult staying asleep or finding a comfortable sleeping position, consider:
- Minimizing daytime napping
- Taking time to de-stress and relax before bed
- Investing in a quality, supportive mattress
- Checking with your doctor to see if your medications may be affecting your sleep habits
Drink Plenty of Water
Soda may be fine as an occasional treat, but what your spine really craves is water. Not drinking enough water can contribute to chronic back pain and worsen age-related spine conditions like degenerative disc disease. The discs that support your vertebrae naturally lose water throughout the day from your normal movements. Strive to drink water steadily throughout the day, not just when you're thirsty.
Feed Your Spine
Maintaining a healthy diet ensures that your spine will have a steady supply of essential nutrients. All B vitamins, vitamins C, D, E, and K, and minerals like magnesium, calcium, and zinc will keep your backbone and its joints and soft tissues healthy. Feed your spine with a diet that includes:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes
- Brightly colored fruits
- Lean proteins (nuts, fish, beans, lean meats)
Not every backache is going to demand medical attention. Minor instances of back pain can often be treated with do-it-yourself remedies like resting for a day or two, modifying activities, and applying heat and/or ice to the affected area. Any discomfort that gets worse over time, comes on suddenly with no apparent reason, or lingers for more than a few weeks should be evaluated by your doctor or a spine specialist.