As we age, changes occur in our bodily systems, including our muscles, joints, bones, discs and many other tissues. In many cases this does not cause any particular pain or disability beyond the occasional aches and pains we all get from time to time.
An osteopath can assess, treat and manage a wide variety of conditions which occur in older people, including pain, loss of mobility and poor balance. This can add to the medical care that many elderly people receive.
Tips to improve or maintain health as we get older include pacing activity into manageable chunks, wearing supportive footwear, performing strengthening and balance exercises, eating a good diet and doing the 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week such as walking or cycling. Osteopaths can advise and give directions about all these things.
Musculoskeletal pains such as low back pain, neck pain, knee pain and other joint or muscle pains are common in older people. Your osteopath can assess your joint and muscular systems and design a holistic programme of treatment, exercises and behaviour change to allow your body to work more effectively and with less pain.
Many people over 50 years of age, particularly women, suffer from osteoporosis, where the numerous supporting struts in the vertebrae and other bones become fewer or thinner. This can make the bones more fragile and more likely to fracture.
Osteoporosis is a condition which does not give any warnings before an acute problem occurs with a fracture of one of the spinal bones or the hip. Hip fracture in the elderly causes significant risk and disability to people who are already vulnerable in terms of mobility.
Osteopaths can help with screening, diagnosis and management of osteoporosis, advising on changes to help the prevention of problems, such as following a healthy diet and including weight bearing exercise. They can also help with pain problems due to joint problems and muscle imbalances.
The two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis (such as RA), cause significant pain and disability, particularly in elderly people. Despite there being no cures for many types of arthritis, osteopaths can help with many of the symptoms.
Gentle manual therapy such as massage, stretches and mobilisation of the joints can reduce pain, increase strength and range of movement. A home exercise programme, advice on diet, weight reduction, activities of daily living and an explanation of your condition are some of the many things an osteopath can help with.
Over 65 years of age, one in three elderly people can expect to fall each year. Falls can have severe consequences such as hip fracture and are responsible in many cases for impaired mobility and in some cases for early death. While vitamin D is known to be helpful and Tai-Chi useful in more able elderly people, osteopathy may contribute by improving the function of the muscle, joint and balance systems which keep us secure much of the time.
Mobility and Gait Disturbance
As we age, our ability to walk normally can become reduced and we can develop abnormal habits. An osteopath can assess walking techniques, muscle and joint ranges and strengths and advise on exercises to improve gait and balance.