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It would be wonderful if we could all age at our own pace—or not at all. However, the reality is that changes do occur in our bodies over time, some of which affect the spine and its various parts. There are steps you can take to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Even so, certain spine conditions tend to be more common in older adults. Here are four of them.

1. Degenerative Disc Disease

Despite the name, degenerative disc disease isn’t an actual “disease” that suddenly develops. It’s simply a term for the age-related changes that affect the spine’s 23 discs. Over time, spinal discs become more susceptible to damage or injury due to changes that may include:

  • A loss of spinal disc height
  • Reduced disc sponginess
  • Increased friction among spinal bones (vertebrae) as discs become thinner

2. Osteoporosis of the Spine

Often referred to as “brittle bone disease,” osteoporosis (OP) is a condition that progressively makes bones less dense, which contributes to an increased risk of spinal fractures and affects vertebrae or small spinal (facet) joints. OP is more common in adults 50 and older and menopausal women. Your risk of developing this condition can be reduced by:

  • Eating more foods with vitamin D and calcium (e.g., fatty fish, green leafy veggies, almonds, fortified cereals, low-fat dairy products, and liver and other lean meats)
  • Talking to your doctor about appropriate supplements
  • Staying active to keep your bones and supporting muscles strong

3. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing sometimes happens because of some type of trauma or defects that were present at birth. However, it can also happen because of age-related changes affecting spinal structures. You can’t widen your spinal canal. Still, you may be able to prevent or slow the progression of spinal stenosis by:

  • Eating nutrient-rich foods
  • Exploring forms of exercise beneficial for your spine
  • Watching how you lift objects
  • Being careful with your posture

If these efforts aren’t effective, surgical decompression may be recommended. The purpose of decompression is to provide more space for irritated spinal nerves, which is sometimes done by removing part of a vertebra (laminectomy) or inserting a Coflex implant. Beverly Hills patients with spinal stenosis may also benefit from spinal fusion surgery to maintain the spine’s stability.

4. Spinal Disc Shifting & Related Issues

Older adults are also more likely to have problems related to spinal discs, which sometimes happens because arthritis and the compression of nerve roots around the spine cause discs to shift. Shifting discs can be even more problematic if you have issues related to degenerative disc disease. When discs within your spine shift, you’re at an increased risk of developing symptoms related to:

  • Herniated discs irritating nerves
  • Bulging discs pressing on nerves
  • Discs that slip out of place and cause vertebrae to slip as well (spondylolisthesis)

Simply getting older doesn’t mean you’ll have spine pain that seriously impacts your quality of life. Even if you do develop one or more of the spine conditions discussed above, there are many conservative treatments, lifestyle improvements, and minimally invasive surgical procedures that can provide welcome relief.

If you’re experiencing long-term or severe pain in your back or neck, no matter what your age, reach out to a Beverly Hills spine surgeon. The industry-leading physicians at The Spine Institute can determine the best course of action to help you find relief for your pain. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.