Ways Active Seniors Can Prevent Back Injuries in Los Angeles, CA

A century-old Japanese woman is the oldest person in history to have competed in a 1500m freestyle swim. This is just one example of how age doesn’t have to be a deterrent to staying active. Even if your personal goals don’t include swimming competitions, there are many benefits to finding enjoyable ways to keep moving during the senior years. Because the natural aging process contributes to changes in bone structure that can affect the spine, it’s important to take steps to prevent back injuries and the need for spine surgery. Santa Monica seniors should pay mind to the following tips to maintain healthy backs.

1. Stretch First

Bending, twisting, and turning are among the movements that can contribute to muscle strain when soft tissues aren’t properly stimulated before getting active. Before you go outside to work in the garden or take a scenic bike ride, take 5-10 minutes to do some simple stretches first. Try:

  • Walking in place for 5 minutes
  • Slowly turning your head from one side to the other
  • Bending forward and placing your hands along a wall, then move up the wall until you are upright (stretches upper spine and shoulder muscles)
  • From a seated position, raising your legs as if you were marching (stretches hamstrings and thigh muscles that support the lower back)
  • While standing, slowly turning your body from one side to the other (don’t force the stretch)

2. Accept Your Limits

It’s great that you want to keep being active as you get older, but there are certain limits you should accept. Going for a bike ride or jogging every day is fine. But you might want to have someone else get on a ladder to clean your gutters or shovel your walkway after a big snowstorm.

3. Keep Your Spine-Supporting Muscles Strong

When you’re not participating in favorite activities, shift your focus to exercises that strengthen the core muscle groups that support your spine in some way. There are many forms of exercise that can help you achieve this goal as you get older, including:

  • Low-impact aerobic activities like walking
  • Gentle forms of exercise like yoga (avoid movements that excessively stretch or strain the spine)
  • Water-based exercises (a good option if you have existing back pain)

4. Enhance Your Balance

The natural aging process includes a lot of changes within the body, some more subtle than others. Some of these changes can affect balance. Minimize your risk of having balance issues while you’re active by working on your balance. Some seniors can enhance and maintain their balance with:

  • Chair exercises (standing behind a chair and lifting one leg at a time)
  • Controlled-movement disciplines like yoga and Pilates
  • Heel-to-toe walking
  • Balanced walking with arms extended outward at shoulder height

5. Know When to Take a Break

Don’t ignore sudden pain around your lower back or neck (the two most common areas where spine pain is felt). If you experience sudden pain or lingering discomfort, take a few days to rest and slow down. As your backache goes away, modify your activities to prevent reinjury until tissues have a chance to fully heal. Tell your doctor about any back pain that’s getting worse or not going away after a few weeks. Ease minor back pain by:

  • Applying heat or ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time
  • Taking over-the-counter NSAIDs
  • Treating yourself to a back massage

If you are an older adult with a back injury that has resulted in chronic pain, you may need minimally invasive back surgery. Santa Monica seniors can call The Spine Institute at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment and find an effective method of relief for their pain.