What Are The Symptoms Of An Aging Spine?

Getting older is unavoidable, and with aging the possibility of back problems and spinal conditions increases. Spotting the symptoms of an aging spine early can stop the issue from developing into something more serious, which could require lengthy treatment and possibly even surgery.

In this article, we will at the various symptoms of an aging spine, the possible treatments, and surgical options. 

The Symptoms of an Aging Spine

So what are the symptoms of an aging spine?

Symptoms may include but are not exclusive to:

  • Pain in your upper, lower or mid-back
  • Weakness in the back
  • Numbness in the back
  • Pain that radiates down to your buttocks or legs
  • Pain when twisting or bending
  • A pinching feeling in the back
  • Difficulty walking for long periods without experiencing pain
  • Difficulty when lifting objects
  • Pain when sitting down for long periods of time
  • Inflammation or redness around the spine

Back Conditions Related to Aging

Below are 4 of the most common back conditions related to aging and general ‘wear & tear’.

Degenerative Disc Disease

The spine is made up of a series of bones called the vertebrae, and each vertebra has a cushioned disc that sits between them which acts as a shock absorber to prevent damage when a person moves. Over time, these discs can wear down and no longer offer sufficient protection to the vertebra, causing them to rub together which can cause pain and stiffness in the back. This is referred to as degenerative disc disease.

Spinal Stenosis

Disc degeneration can also lead to spinal stenosis, and like degenerative disc disease, this can happen anywhere in the spine – cervical (neck/ upper back), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (lower back). This condition occurs when the spinal column narrows, applying pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, resulting in a pinching pain, as well as possible weakness and numbness.


Arthritis is the deterioration of the joints and can affect the vertebrae, causing pain and inflammation. 


As a person gets older their bones may lose density and become brittle, if this happens to vertebrae, then the spine can become less stable and prone to fractures. Fractures can be very painful and may take a long time to heal. Taking a bone density test can help to identify conditions such as osteoporosis which is why regular visits to your doctor regarding your spine health are recommended.

Aging Spine Treatments

Studies show that incorporating gentle to moderate exercise into your daily routine is very beneficial for your spine, even if you are over the age of 60. Maintaining a healthy weight and muscle strength in your back is one of the best ways to avoid any issues relating to the spine, as well as a good posture and avoiding inflammatory, fatty, and sugary foods. 

Of course, your spine will be subjected to ‘wear and tear’ over the years, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to negate the impact of this sort of deterioration. Strengthening your back muscles helps to avoid injury and can reduce the chance of spinal diseases.

However, if your back has sustained damage that has developed into a medical condition, then it is recommended to visit your doctor who may recommend the following treatments. 

  • Physical Therapy and Exercise – Your doctor may recommend that you attend physical therapy to improve strength in your back, increase flexibility, and reduce your weight to a healthy level. As well as working with a professional therapist, you can also speed up the recovery process with gentle exercise at home, such as stretching, yoga, or taking regular walks.
  • Heat/ Ice Packs – Applying ice or heat packs can reduce inflammation, ease pain, and stop muscle spasms for a period of time. This can be an effective way of coping with the symptoms of a back issue while it heals. Apply the ice or heat pack for 20-30 minutes at a time, and if you do not have an ice pack, then a frozen bag of peas can be just as effective.
  • Medication – If the pain is intolerable then it is likely that your doctor will prescribe medication to cope with your back problem. The most common form of medication for back pain are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but in extreme cases, opioids may be prescribed. However, opioids will always be seen as a last resort because of their addictive properties.
  • A Combination of Rest and Staying Active – In years gone by, getting plenty of rest was recommended for a bad back. Modern studies show that although some rest is advisable, it is also very beneficial to stay mobile and active. You should, of course, avoid intensive activities such as contact sports and heavy lifting, but stretches, jogging, and other gentle exercises can help to accelerate recovery.

Traditional Back Surgery

If treatment proves ineffective then surgery could be recommended as a last resort to cure the problem permanently. 

Traditional back surgeries include:

  • Decompression surgery/ Laminectomy – This surgery is performed to cure spinal stenosis, removing part of the vertebra (the lamina) or any bone spurs that have developed to create more space in the spinal canal. This helps to alleviate any pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Discectomy – Commonly performed alongside a laminectomy, a discectomy removes a deteriorated disc that is pressing on the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Foraminotomy – This surgery enlarges the hole in the spine where the nerve root exits the spinal canal to prevent conditions such as a ruptured disc or thickened joints from pressing on any nerves.
  • Spinal Fusion – When a disc is removed from between two vertebrae, these two bones are fused together to provide stability. This is done using bone grafts and/ or a metal device which is then secured by rods and screws. Unfortunately, spinal fusion will result in a lack of flexibility and mobility in the spine, preventing certain movements. This surgery also has a long recovery period.

Modern Surgical Options for Spine Conditions

Due to the drawbacks of spinal fusion surgery, modern devices have been developed such as the Premia Spine TOPS System. These spinal devices mimic the function of the vertebrae to ensure the patient retains their full range of motion. 

Thank you for reading. We hope this article has provided some insight into the effects of an aging spine. 

Leave a Comment