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Exercises and Physical Therapy for Back Pain

A woman suffers from back pain

While many Americans suffer from back pain, those over age 60 are more likely to have pain due to the degeneration of joints in their spine. In fact, back pain is one of the top reasons that seniors will need to see a doctor.

What Causes Chronic Pain

As people age, the bones and discs in their spines can deteriorate causing stiffness and soreness. The discs between vertebrae can wear away or even shrink causing pain as they rub against one another. There are three main causes of back pain in seniors1:

  1. Degenerative changes (such as arthritis) – This is a common cause of lower back pain and happens as the joints in the lower back get damaged with time. The surface of the joints have cartilage that wears away. This becomes painful as joints rub together creating friction and inflammation.
  2. Spinal Stenosis – This occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows over time. It puts pressure on the cord and the spinal nerves, which causes pain.
  3. Spondylolisthesis – A spinal vertebrae can slip forward onto the vertebrae below causing pain.

Best Prevention Practices

Follow these tips to help ward off back pain as you age. There are ways to keep your spine in shape:

  • Practice good posture when sitting or standing
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise to keep your back and abdomen strong and flexible
  • Reduce any stress on your back


One of the best ways to keep back pain at bay is with simple stretching. This can be done easily at home at any time. Be sure to check with your doctor before adding any stretching routines or exercises to your health regimen, or if you are currently experiencing back pain. These simple stretches include:

  • Neck and chest stretch (side to side). This opens up the chest, which can feel tight from bad posture.
  • Seated gentle backbend can counteract tension in the back muscles.
  • Gentle twists while seated can stimulate digestion and circulation. This is a good stretch for lower back pain and helps with spinal flexibility.

When it’s Time for Rehab

If your back pain is severe enough that physical therapy or rehabilitation is required, be ready to implement several strategies and exercises. For easing serious back pain, your therapist might have you:

  • Restrict any activities that cause the pain
  • Start physical therapy
  • Wear a brace
  • Use chiropractic therapy
  • Do yoga or pilates

One non-invasive treatment protocol for back pain is spinal decompression therapy. Spinal decompression is key to reducing disc herniation and protrusion. Combining this treatment with aquatic therapy can accelerate healing and recovery.

In addition to decompression treatment, you should be prepared for any of the following when you start rehabilitation for your back pain:

  • Stretching
  • Walking
  • Massage
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Manual therapy
  • Cold therapy
  • Heat therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Rehab Center at Peabody

    Back pain can be debilitating and seriously affect your daily activities. The Rehab Center at Peabody Retirement Community offers comprehensive, individualized plans for your needs. They even provide specialized spine treatments for those experiencing chronic back pain. Contact us today to learn more about our senior rehabilitation services and find out how we can restore your health.

    1. The Link Between Aging and Back Pain. (Accessed Nov 20 2018).

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