The Sunday Express newspaper from the UK has reported an unsettling trend where mature persons are choosing to delay medical treatment for pain for more than a year – specifically when it comes to pain in the back, hip or neck. An injury in these areas are rarely life threatening, but they do affect one’s quality and enjoyment of life, plus the ability to manage the rehabilitation process early in the pain cycle.

So, why are baby boomers avoiding visiting the doctor? Speculatively, some people believe that pain is a natural part of ageing, or that an injury will heal on its own. Others may wish to avoid the possibility of surgery or simply be affected by time and budget constraints. Unfortunately the report did not look into the underlying reasons why this generation in particular avoided the doctor for pain treatment.

By avoiding the doctor for long periods of time an injury can develop into chronic pain with complications. When one part of the back is out of action, other muscle groups step in take the load. While this is okay for the short-term, over a long period it puts excess stress on more areas of the body and exacerbates the original problem.

However, if a person visits the doctor within a week of an injury, they are put in a very strong position for obtaining the referrals, exercises or treatments that will either heal or manage the pain. Putting up with pain for 16 months is simply unnecessary suffering. The longer someone waits, the harder it is going to be to fix the problem.

There are a few important reasons to visit the doctor for back, hip and neck pain. Apart from getting effective treatments for managing pain, or healing an injury, the process also assists patients to maintain their long term mobility. A person’s mobility is the strongest indicator that they can remain living independently. By not seeking assistance, people may inadvertently be doing themselves a disservice.

Pain does not always need to be a normal part of getting older. While it is true that our bodies become more susceptible to injuries after a lifetime of use, pain can be managed and the issue healed if caught in time.

How does ageing affect back health?

Worn out discs

When the discs between the vertebrae suffer wear over time, they can be worn down to such a stage that the vertebrae rub directly against each other. Without the disc acting as a buffer, there will be stiffness, and pain.

Osteoporosis
When people (usually females) do not accumulate enough calcium or exercise througought their lifetime, Osteoporosis can develop when they reach their 60s or 70s. The disease Osteoporosis diminishes bone density, creating a skeleton that is unsteady, brittle and easily broken.

Arthritis and inflammation
If the joints are inflamed and the cartilage is wearing away, the sufferer may have osteoarthritis. While this can occur in many parts of the body, it is painful and can reduce mobility without proper treatment. This is another condition where a doctor’s advice can make a positive difference.

Prevention is the best medicine

If you are a baby boomer who prefers to avoid the doctor, the best thing you can do for your musculoskeletal system to be aware of how to look after your body and maintain an active lifestyle.

  • If you spend long hours at a desk, make sure it is set up ergonomically by following these erogonomic safety instructions.
  • Move regularly throughout the day, even if it is walking up and down the hallway, to keep the body awake and active. These minor, frequent movements are more beneficial than doing a power workout at the end of the day.  
  • Keep doing the sports you love like golf, dancing, swimming, pilates or cycling to keep strength, muscle tone and flexibility.
  • Take up resistance training or weight training at the gym. The muscles get a workout and when they apply pressure to the bones, the bone density increases.
  • Eat a balanced diet that provides your body with essential nutrients and energy for your body to enjoy life. That way, if an injury does occur, your body is in good health to power the immune system.
  • Quit smoking. The chemicals in the cigarettes actually interfere with the bodies absorption of nutrients as well as causing cancer.

By making healthier choices throughout our lives we are setting ourselves up for an active future. Seeking out the doctor’s expert advice when we are in pain really can help us live longer, and live better because getting older is a part of life that every single one of us deserves to enjoy.