The number of senior adults in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the Census Bureau, in 2011 there were 41.4 million people age 65 or older, making up 13.3% of the entire U.S. population, and the number is projected to account for at least 20% of the population by 2060, reaching 92 million people. At the same time, life expectancy in the USA rose in 2012 to a record high of 78.8 years, according to the CDC, with 81.2 years the life expectancy for women and 76.4 years for males.
But while living longer is certainly great news for America’s seniors, it is usually accompanied by a host of health issues that arise with age. In most patients, the degenerative process of the spine cannot be prevented, but chiropractic care can minimize the damage through the use of adjustive and mobilization techniques, also decreasing spinal pain, stress, and tension. Let’s take a look at five most common health conditions among older adults and how chiropractic can provide relief.
1) Chronic neck and back pain
While the elderly can experience chronic pain related to any health disorder that affects younger people, people ages 55 or older are more likely to experience pain that results from the dramatic changes that occur in the spine with old age. In older people, everything from the spinal discs to ligaments to muscles and tissues become weaker, more fibrous, and more vulnerable to injury. Most common symptoms include severe pain, localized tenderness, intermittent pain exacerbated by physical activity, and decreased range of motion.
2) Muscle pain and stiffness
Although muscle deterioration is a natural process that is particularly visible in old age due to the fact that people lose about 1% of their lean muscle mass every year after the age of 40, other causes may significantly contribute to the pain and stiffness experienced by most patients. For one, a sedentary life can accelerate the deterioration process – studies shows that bedridden patients lose about 1% of their muscle strength for each day spent in bed. Certain medications, such as systemic corticosteroids, as well as certain health disorders, such as cancer, can result in muscle weakness.
3) Limited range of motion
Range of motion – the full movement potential of a joint – and flexibility decrease with age. This is caused by the decreased production of synovial fluid, a substance stored between our joints that prevents stiffness by keeping the joints lubricated at all times. As people grow older and start being more and more inactive, the fluid is produced in smaller quantities, leading to a decreased range of motion. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Aging Research, among people ages 55 to 86, a decrease in the flexibility of the shoulder and hip joints by approximately 6 degrees every 10 years was observed.
4) Arthritis and arthritis pain
Another leading cause of disability among U.S. adults, arthritis – and its most common form, osteoarthritis – is the result of years of wear and tear on the body and particularly on the joints. The term ‘arthritis’ means “inflamed joint” and limits the ability of more than 52 million people in the US (1 in 5) to walk, climb stairs, push heavy objects, sit or stand for more than two hours, grasp small objects, and bend or kneel. The impact of arthritis is significant, negatively affect the physical and emotional health of patients.
It’s estimated that more than 1.6 million older adults end up in the emergency room for fall-related injuries; in people ages 65 or older, falls are the main cause of fractures, loss of independence, and even death. According to the CDC, in 2012, the direct medical costs of falls in older adults reached $30 billion. Some of the reasons why the risk of falling is the highest in the elderly include: slowing down of reflexes, changes in muscle mass and body fat that alter a person’s ability to balance, changes in vision, and chronic diseases that affect mobility and mental alertness.
How Can Chiropractic Help People Age Well?
Chiropractic care can provide relief for these conditions by:
- Improving spinal and joint motion and restoring the intake of nutrients to joints
- Decreasing joint and tissue degeneration by eliminating abnormalities in the biomechanics of the body
- Reducing the causes (biomechanical and neurological) of bad posture
- Balancing the nervous system by releasing accumulated stress and tension
- Increasing the overall feeling of health and well-being\
Chiropractic can also provide relief for many other aches and pains, from tension headaches to sciatica to vertigo. It’s important to understand that regular chiropractic care in people over 55 is not only meant to eliminate pain and correct abnormalities in the spine, but also optimize overall health and wellbeing and increase the quality of life.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.