Solutions to back pain – a common complaint among boomers

Baby boomers don’t have more or less back pain than other generations… but as we get older, more of us have it. Sure, there are ways to avoid it but equally important, once it strikes, there are ways to mitigate it. That’s Bob Merz’s specialty, which is why he has written something for BoomerCafé: Boomer Backs – What A Pain!

Back pain — more specifically, lower back pain. How can I say, this can be a “real pain in the #@%*&” for us boomers?

Bob Merz

Bob Merz

I’ve experienced it myself from time to time, but mostly my back pains have been related to some ill-conceived movement or a mistake when exercising, that admittedly came from being distracted and not focusing on what I was doing.

However, I have plenty of friends and family members older than fifty who complain about back pain, some for years. And I have offered my advice from time to time, but alas, far too often it falls on deaf ears. So they continue to suffer and compromise their lifestyle to boot. Too bad!

There are specific stretches and exercises that can address lower back pain and alleviate much, if not all of it. Beyond friends and family, I’ve trained a few clients who suffer this malady and they have found that the back pain has greatly subsided or entirely disappeared. Good news, yes?

According to different sources, more than 80 percent of American adults will suffer significant back pain at least once. That’s a frightening statistic. So what specifically should you do?

Merz_yogaThe best idea if you are part of that statistic is to rest until the pain goes away – right? No, actually that’s wrong. You want to keep moving to keep those muscles from getting even tighter.

There are “good idea” exercises and “bad idea” exercises. Let’s look at what we should be doing to help control back pain. Of course, you should first check with your doctor or physical therapist -– especially if you are in active care and haven’t been exercising regularly.

First, you need to stretch. If you have muscle pain, there are probably tight muscles involved. Lie on your back and slowly pull one knee into your chest. Hold the stretch and feel the muscle start to release. Even more slowly, return the leg to the floor and pull the other knee into your chest. The stretch will be felt in the tighter muscles but you should ideally feel the stretch in the vertical muscles on either side of the spine. Confused about stretches? No problem! Check out the video library of stretches in our 50plusPlusFit Online Personal Trainer.

Now, stretch your hamstrings. From the floor, lift one leg and hold the foot with both hands. Try to straighten your knee so that you feel a stretch on the back of your thigh and across the back of your knee. Hold that stretch until you feel the muscle release—then switch legs and repeat.

When stretching, be sure to avoid a stretch where you are standing and you reach with your hands to the floor with straight knees. This bent-over stretch is not good for your lower back.

Merz_waterNext, concentrate on core muscles -– those muscles that surround your torso -– and not just your abdominal muscles. The “core” supports your spine and, when functioning properly, will help protect you from back pain. The sit-up is now considered one of the worst movements for your lower back. Pelvic tilts, bridges, leg lifts are all safer movements from the same position -– lying flat on your back. They will work your core effectively. These core exercise videos are also found in our Online Personal Trainer.

Now here’s an idea that’s all wet … try the pool. Walking in the water is great exercise and the water helps to provide support so that you can move without further harm to your back. Swimming might be even better exercise for people with back pain.

Merz_swimmerBy all means, skip the treadmill -– jarring movements should be avoided. Jogging, especially on hard surfaces, can aggravate lower back pain. The twisting motion of an elliptical trainer is also a bad idea. Likewise, it’s smart to skip contact sports like boomer basketball and volleyball. And, do I even need to say, “stay off the trampoline?”

Round off your routine with an experienced yoga or Pilates practitioner. Go to class early and speak with the instructor about your pain. The instructor will be able to suggest modifications and emphasize correct movements for you during class.

So, when pain strikes, don’t just sit or lie down and wait for it to go away -– you can speed your recovery with stretching and exercises. Be sure to listen to your body and if the condition worsens, you should seek medical attention. Be sure your doctor knows what you plan to do and enjoy moving toward being pain-free, because you’re a boomer who is 50plusPlusFit.


  1. Great advice. The difficult thing to admit is that a lot of back pain is brought about because we are just carrying to much weight on us. Good exercise, not over doting it, the no pain no gain idea was not helpful, and stretching are the best ways to avoid and deal with back pain. Thank you!

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