As we age, so do our muscles and bones, along with the amount of support they provide. It can affect any of us, but it’s notably worse for senior citizens. Without careful positioning, seniors can easily end up with a painful back.
But just because they’re old, doesn’t mean their posture should be bad. With some careful tips and adjustments, senior citizens can also enjoy a life without back pain. If you’re a caregiver, here are some tips and pointers to help seniors manage or prevent any back pain.
Improve their bedding
First, you need to make sure that they’re sleeping comfortably. Make sure their mattress is neither too soft nor too firm. Their aging backs need ample support when sleeping, so work with them in finding a firm mattress they prefer.
Don’t obsess over every little thing about the mattress, either. Remember, mattress firmness differs from person to person; what doesn’t work for you works for others. For example, if you are a side sleeper, then a firm mattress might not work for you. You would want to find the best bed in a box for side sleepers which is available both in store and online. If all else fails, remember what Dr. Douglas Orr, a spine specialist for the Cleveland Clinic says: “If you are getting a good night’s sleep and not waking up from pain, you probably have the right support.”
Add, change, or remove pillows
Your next step is to check your senior’s pillow. Most of us like to think that pillows are heavenly pieces of fluff that cradle our heads during sleep. While we’re not wrong, we’re also oversimplifying its purpose.
Good pillows not only cuddle our heads while sleeping, but it also helps keep our spine correctly aligned. Cleveland Clinic recommends placing the pillow beneath the head and neck. If it reaches the shoulders, the pillow is too low.
Ensure that your senior’s pillow is firm enough to fill the space behind their neck. Pillows that are too soft flatten quickly, which in turn fails to fill the neck space. As a result, the spine gets misaligned, and the risk of back pain increases. It might be worth investing in a pillow for back pain, but keep in mind that this is not the cure-all for any back-pain problems.
Confirm their preferred sleeping position
Depending on how they like to sleep, you may or may not need to put extra pillows on their bed. Back sleepers are the easiest to accommodate; they don’t need any other pillow aside from the one under their head.
Meanwhile, side and stomach sleepers should have more than one pillow to help support their back. Side sleepers need a pillow placed between their legs when sleeping. The extra space ensures that their spine, hips, and pelvis are aligned correctly. Without it, the hips and pelvis slope downward, causing stress on lower back muscles.
Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, need to sleep with an extra pillow under their stomach. The pillow elevates their hips and pelvis, which in turn relieves the downward pressure from the neck. You can also offer them not to use a head pillow for the night.
What if they’re truly in pain?
Made all of the bedding adjustments but your senior citizen is still having back pains? There are more home remedies you can do.
The first step is to apply an ice pack or warm compress as WebMD recommends on the affected area. This method works best during the first 48 hours of the back pain onset, so make sure to perform this step right away.
Afterwards, start applying a gentle massage to the affected area. Dr. Orr said it best: “If you had a sore calf muscle, you would stretch it and massage it.” Apply some pressure to the back muscle to promote blood flow, and get your senior moving as much as they’re able. Use some pain-relieving ointment or massage cream if you must.
And don’t be afraid to give them some over-the-counter pain relievers. Not only do these pills help ease the pain, but they can also reduce any inflammation.
Pain still not going away?
If your senior citizen’s back pain has not improved any in three weeks, then it’s time to see a doctor. The same applies if the pain shoots down their leg or if it’s accompanied with numbness. It’s more than likely that they have a severe condition that requires more medical attention.
Caring for senior citizens shouldn’t be any harder than taking care of ourselves. Even though their muscles and bones are weakening, they can still avoid pain with proper ergonomics. Keeping an eye on their posture and improving their bedding can go a long way in ensuring a pain-free life.