Many people don’t think about their backs until they have a problem with them. And while some back problems are common in the 40s, most aren’t serious and can be resolved quickly through home treatment or a visit to your doctor’s office.
Here is a list of the most common back pain issues for people in their 40s:
Low back pain.
The most common back problem for people in their 40s is low back pain, which occurs when you lift something too heavy or strain your muscles as you move. This can cause sharp or dull pain that radiates into your buttock or down the side of your leg.
Common treatments for low back pain include rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain relief medication.
This is another common back condition that’s not serious. It happens when you have a herniated disc in your lower back, pinching the sciatic nerve. The pain can be an intense shooting sensation that travels down your buttock and leg along the sciatic nerve.
The most effective treatment for sciatica is physical therapy.
This is another type of back pain that can arise in your 40s. It occurs when the fluid-filled cushion between the vertebrae, called an intervertebral disc, begins to rupture or bulge outward into surrounding tissues. This creates pressure on the nerves and surrounding structures, causing pain that can radiate into your buttock or down the back of your leg.
If you have a herniated disc, over-the-counter pain relief medication and physical therapy can help prevent it from getting worse.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature in your spine caused by an underlying medical condition, such as arthritis or muscular dystrophy. It’s often associated with pain in the back and neck that radiates into your arms. Sometimes scoliosis can lead to breathing problems when it causes pressure on the lungs.
If you suspect you have scoliosis, an X-ray can confirm it. However, treatment varies depending on the cause and severity of this condition.
The most effective treatment for scoliosis is physiotherapy that focuses on strengthening your core muscles to stabilize your spine.
This occurs when the openings in your spine that allow nerves to pass through become narrow, putting pressure on the nerves and resulting in pain. Sometimes you may also experience numbness or weakness throughout your arms, legs, or trunk. Before considering surgery, your doctor will likely recommend conservative treatment first, such as exercise and over-the-counter pain relief medication.
Cervical disk herniation.
This can happen when the cushion between two bones, called a disc, in your neck ruptures or bulges into surrounding tissues, putting pressure on the nerves that supply movement and sensation to your arms. This causes pain that can radiate into your arm, hand, fingers, and shoulders. Doctors can often resolve this condition with neck manipulation and physical therapy.
Degenerative disc disease.
This happens as a result of wear and tear from aging or injury. It can lead to pain from ruptured discs, bone spurs, and enlarged joints in your spine. Heat/ice therapy and over-the-counter pain relief medications are often effective at relieving this type of back pain.
Spondylitis is a disorder that causes inflammation in your spine, which can cause pain. Sometimes it leads to back stiffness and trouble standing upright after sitting for long periods. This disorder affects men more than women, usually starting at around age 20. Your doctor will likely prescribe over-the-counter pain medications and advise rest and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve symptoms.
When you get older, your body naturally begins to break down the cartilage in your spine; this is known as arthritis. This breakdown can cause bone spurs, which are small knobby areas of extra bone that can pressure the nerves and cause pain. This kind of back pain is common in people over age 50, but it can also occur younger if you have arthritis or osteoporosis. You can often treat bone spurs with rest, heat/ice therapy, and over-the-counter pain relief medication.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SIJ)
This is where the joints that connect your spine to your pelvis become inflamed. The pain can vary depending on whether or not you’re moving, and it often causes tenderness in the buttocks. This disorder occurs more frequently during pregnancy but can also affect women who are older than 40.
Physiotherapy, medications, and rest are all effective treatments.
The majority of people over 40 will experience pain in their back at some point. Consult your physician or physiotherapist for a diagnosis. You should also seek medical attention if your symptoms are constant, interfere with daily activities, or are accompanied by fever, weight loss, or other changes in health.