Central Auckland practice located in the Auckland CBD

Hours of operation:

Monday- Friday: 8 a.m.- 6 pm


8 Albert Street
Corner Albert Street and Mills Lane
Ground Level
Quay West Building
Auckland City

Ph:     09 377 5525
Fax:    09 379 3793
Email: info@citymed.co.nz


Back Pain? Find Out Why You Mustn’t Ignore It and How to Minimise It




As you grow older, the bones and discs in your spine would start to degenerate, causing stiffness, pain, and discomfort. But just because it’s a natural part of aging, you shouldn’t ignore it. There is a long list of possible causes of back pain, including poor eating habits, being overweight, inactivity, spinal problems, and other medical conditions, which could include cancer.


What causes back pain?


Because our spines are used everyday, feeling pain on your back is part of the normal wear and tear. Over time, the bones that are stacked on top of each other in our spines, called vertebrae, shrink and become brittle. This is because the discs that act as shock absorbers to prevent the bones from rubbing against one another wear away. This causes stiffness and soreness.


Older people are also more susceptible to osteoporosis or decreased bone mass, causing the spine to be more prone to fractures and, thus, pain. Aside from that, seniors, especially those in respite care, can suffer from spinal arthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that causes a breakdown of the cartilage in the neck and lower back.


Some of the most common types of back pain that older adults suffer from include the following:


  • Pain that’s felt mostly in the morning and towards the end of the day

  • Loss of flexibility in the back, preventing the person from being able to bend comfortably

  • Pain that disrupts sleep or affects the quality of sleep

  • Steady or intermittent pain felt in the lower back, which is often felt when doing certain activities for long periods


Why back pain shouldn’t be ignored


Ignoring back pain, or any other kinds of aches for that matter, could cause the illness or condition to become chronic, disrupting even the most mundane of activities. Pain that lasts for more than three months could be a sign of underlying conditions, like degenerative disc disease, cancer, and arthritis.


If the pain you are feeling radiates from your lower back all the way down to your leg, it could be a sign of nerve root irritation, which, if left untreated for a long time, could lead to numbness, muscle weakness, and chronic pain. Now, if the pain is paired with limping, it could be caused by nerve damage. Don’t ignore this kind of pain as it could lead to permanent muscle weakness.


Pain with balance problems might be an indication of osteoporosis-related fractures. If it is accompanied by bowel or bladder issues, on the other hand, it could be a sign of cauda equine syndrome, which is a rare condition that puts a lot of pressure on the bottom nerves of your spine, which is connected to the pelvic organs.


One should not leave back pain untreated, especially if it is coupled with chills, night sweats, and fever. This could be a sign that your body is having a reaction to something, like an infection.


How to relieve back pain?


  • Use heat packs or wraps

Applying heat for 20 minutes to the affected areas is a good form of natural pain relief. This is because heat packs help increase blood flow and make tissues more elastic to improve mobility.




  • Exercise




Any type of physical activity is good for seniors. Abdominal strengthening exercises, as well as those for the hamstrings, buttocks, and shoulders, can improve your back. Before starting your workout, though, be sure to warm-up.


If there are routines that are painful to perform, stop them at once. You can seek the help of a professional physiotherapist to ensure that you’re doing the right exercise that will benefit you the most.


  • Eat healthy

Eating the right kinds of food helps keep the bones stronger. This is especially true if you eat foods rich in vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium.


  • Invest in a good mattress

It’s true that if it’s not broken, there’s no use fixing it. But for elderly people, sleeping on a quality mattress could greatly improve their overall health. This is because a good bed can relieve pain and support the neck and back. If you are in aged care, be sure to request for a nice, comfortable bed.


  • Seek massage therapy

Painkillers may offer temporary relief, but massage therapy can greatly reduce pain by minimising inflammation and improving circulation around your muscles. In fact, it can get rid of the problem completely when done consistently.


  • Use natural remedies

There are herbs with anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the swelling and pain in your back. These include devil’s claw, capsicum, and willow bark.


  • Give up unhealthy habits

Quitting smoking can also help relieve back pain. Nicotine can contribute to osteoporosis and the degeneration of the spinal discs. So, aside from lung cancer, smokers are more prone to spinal problems.


  • Improve your posture

If you slouch while standing or sitting, this could put more pressure on your back. So make sure to find the correct posture that supports your spine. Consult with your therapist for assessment and for advice on exercises or tools that support correct alignment.  


  • Take advantage of liniments that contain capsaicin

Capsaicin, which is found in most liniments, is a substance in hot peppers that produces heat. When applied on the skin, it can help deplete the nerve endings of substance P, a neurochemical responsible for generating pain sensations to the brain. By applying liniments on your back, you’ll feel a bit of relief.




Visit your doctor or physiotherapist immediately, and you can keep back pain from becoming worse. After all, prevention is always better than cure.