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Tips for Older Adults with Back Pain

Back Care Awareness Week – Tips for Older Adults

Friends ease painFor those of you who read my previous blog you will know that there is a lack of awareness of the impact back pain on older adults, its causes and the best management approaches. I promised I would write more about this, this week, so here we go. I am focusing on tips to help you manage your back pain as that is why I am sure most of you have found this blog – you are looking for answers. The most important thing to remember, that the answers are different for each and everyone of us.

Pain is individual, therefore the treatment and management of your pain should be individual, and this often means experimenting with different approaches to find the right one for you.

Exercise is key to reducing back pain

Movement is key to alleviating any pain caused by your muscles, joints, ligaments etc. By moving more you will improve the blood flow to the injured area and will help to improve the healing process, yes it may hurt a little bit more initially, but often patients report that in fact the more they move the less stiffness and pain they feel.

The general recommendation is

  • Physical activity at least 5 days a week – building up to at least 30 minutes a time, enough to feel like you have warmed up but can still hold a conversation
  • Include strengthening exercises in your routine on at least 2 days a week, to help build muscle mass.
  • Physical activity doesn’t have to mean a formal gym session or exercise class, there are plenty of ways to get active without going to the gym for example
    • Walking
    • Gardening
    • Dancing
    • Housework
  • Try something different.
    • A recent study found that people who used a video game to help exercise found that their chronic back pain and function improved after 8 weeks. (1. Zadro et al., 2018) – maybe try the more physical games on the WII Fit U or XBox One
    • I have gathered the details of a number of different groups who offer different exercise classes for older people, most of these also offer a social element to their class.
    • Try something you enjoyed when you were younger – join a cycling club, or return to hockey with walking hockey.
    • Seen something that inspired you on TV – for example Strictly Come Dancing or Tennis, and not sure how to get started, ask your friendly osteopath, I would be delighted to put you in touch with like minded people.
    • Adopt a pet – you dont need to actually have a pet come to live with you, you can help out at a rescue charity, or “Borrow a Pet” – there are a number of online groups which link you up with people who need pet sitters, walkers etc.

Get Social

Often when you have chronic pain you become withdrawn from your friends and family. Initially this may be because you don’t feel up to socialising due to the pain – we withdraw to rest and recuperate, however if this pain becomes chronic it can lead to feeling disconnected or lonely which in turn will enhance your feeling of pain. The more you are alone, then the more aware you will become aware of your pain due to fewer distractions from it.

To help to get back into socialising it is worth starting with small steps.

  • Go for a walk to the end of the road and say hello to your neighbour, a short chat to catch up on the local news will help you to feel in touch with your local community.
  • Call a family member, but walk around whilst you are on the phone.
  • Join a local interest group and walk to it
    • a book club
    • a coffee morning
    • a local history group
  • Volunteer your services for something that means a lot to you
    • church flower arranging
    • a charity shop
    • listening to local school children read
    • borrow a dog and take it for a walk, dog walkers love chatting about their charges

Exercise has to be fun

Whatever you choose to do to get active and to ease your back pain it has to be something you want to do, and therefore it has to be fun. By getting involved with others – family, friends, new acquaintances you can exercise without really noticing what you are doing, and when it gets tough you will have your own cheerleaders to help you keep going.

Each of these tips will help to build your movement levels up whilst also providing the distraction of others.  If you are still worried about your pain and getting moving, then give your local osteopath a call or book online to see how osteopathy can help to get you moving.


  1. Zadro, J., Shirley, D., Simic, M., Mousavi, S., Ceprnja, D., Maka, K., Sung, J. and Ferreira, P. (2018). Video Game-Based Exercises for Older People With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial (GAMEBACK). [online] academic.oup.com. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/ptj/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ptj/pzy112/5104462?redirectedFrom=fulltext [Accessed 8 Oct. 2018].