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What happens to our spines as we grow older?

This is a question many doctors hear from patients as young as 35 and those growing older — or getting up there in years, as some people say. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve experienced back pain and you want to know, “Why is my back bothering me all of a sudden?” The fact is some spine problems develop as a result of normal age-related changes affecting spinal bone and soft tissues. Of course, lifestyle choices affect the health of your spine, just as smoking is detrimental to heart health. To help you understand how normal aging affects the spine, we will review typical age-related changes that affect the body’s musculoskeletal system – its bones, joints and muscles. Birth to 18-years

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After birth, bones begin to harden and muscles develop to support the growing body. During these years, bones grow larger and stronger while reaching maximum bone density usually between age 181 and 20. Bone mineral density refers to bone mass, its strength.

After birth, bones begin to harden and muscles develop to support the growing body. During these years, bones grow larger and stronger while reaching maximum bone density usually between age 181 and 20. Bone mineral density refers to bone mass, its strength. Age 20 through 50

Muscle size and strength begins to decrease after age 25. 1 Experiencing back pain for the first time often happens between 30 and 40. 2 Hormonal changes (i.e. menopause) affect women in their mid-40s. Testosterone levels in men begin to decline between ages 40-50. Normal hormone levels are important to help maintain bone mineral density. 1

Muscle size and strength begins to decrease after age 25. Experiencing back pain for the first time often happens between 30 and 40. Hormonal changes (i.e. menopause) affect women in their mid-40s. Testosterone levels in men begin to decline between ages 40-50. Normal hormone levels are important to help maintain bone mineral density. Age 50 through 70

Muscle size and strength continue to reduce. During these years, many postmenopausal women are at risk for osteoporosis; a silent bone weakening disease that contributes to spinal compression fracture. 1 According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “Approximately one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.” 3

Muscle size and strength continue to reduce. During these years, many postmenopausal women are at risk for osteoporosis; a silent bone weakening disease that contributes to spinal compression fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “Approximately one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.” Age 70 and Beyond

The golden years may not be so for many, as joint wear 1 , osteoporosis, and spinal disorders affect many older people. Normal Age-related Spinal Changes

Besides the spine’s bones – called vertebra or vertebrae (plural), other structures are affected by growing older. The outer protective rim (annulus fibrosis) and interior gel-like (nucleus pulposus) of the intervertebral discs change too. Collagen and proteoglycans – both proteins, plus water are important to disc structure, strength, and resiliency. Age causes cells to change and with those changes, the number of water-attracting molecules decrease, which impacts a disc’s ability to absorb and distribute stress. This is one reason why people may lose flexibility with age and develop a spine problem. Growing Older and Other Possible Spine Problems

Like other things, sometimes one thing leads to another and this is true with certain spinal problems. Two examples are disc degeneration and osteoporosis. Age-related disc changes, mentioned previously, may cause one or more discs to lose flexibility, strength, shape / height, and resiliency. Over a period of time, a disc may bulge (not break open) or herniate (rupture). A bulging or disc herniation often causes pain by pinching a nearby spinal nerve. Pain may be localized or spread into another part of the body.

Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease that increases your risk for a vertebral compression fracture. Osteoporosis usually develops gradually and in tandem with age-related changes such as menopause, that can upset the complex balance of bone rebuilding. Bone is alive and throughout your life old bone is broken down and replaced by new bone. Osteoporosis throws the balance out of whack and causes bone to become porous, less dense, and highly susceptible to fracture. Your Own Fountain of Youth

No one can stop growing older, change their genetic profile, or sex – but there are many sensible steps most anyone can take to improve the general health of their spine. Stop smoking. Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain hundreds of chemicals and harmful additives that are detrimental to every system in your body. Smoking decreases the water balance in discs, slows circulation and respiration necessary to delivery nutrients to the spine, and adversely affects postoperative healing.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain hundreds of chemicals and harmful additives that are detrimental to every system in your body. Smoking decreases the water balance in discs, slows circulation and respiration necessary to delivery nutrients to the spine, and adversely affects postoperative healing. Control your weight. Being overweight (even 10 pounds!) forces your spine to work harder.

Being overweight (even 10 pounds!) forces your spine to work harder. Exercise helps to keep your entire body healthy – but it is especially important to maintain a healthy spine. Exercise can build and keep your core muscles strong to support your spine, aids joints mobility, and maintains flexibility.

helps to keep your entire body healthy – but it is especially important to maintain a healthy spine. Exercise can build and keep your core muscles strong to support your spine, aids joints mobility, and maintains flexibility. Eat healthy. The way your body performs everyday – today and years from now, is affected by your eating habits and what you consume. If you are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, you can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Partner with Your Doctor

Richard

Richard

Richard Edwards is the head writer at Doodle Bug Web Designs. He has been writing for just five years and he already has an impressive audience.