October is the month to celebrate older people around the world.
October is the month to celebrate older people around the world. In celebration of International Day of Older Person’s on the 1st of October, we thought we’d outline some of the common complaints we see in elderly patients to give all our readers some insight into what it’s like to get older and what effect this has on the body.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, a disease that affects the synovial joints in the body. Synovial joints are the fluid-filled joints found throughout the body, which can be found in the shoulders, hips, elbows, wrists, fingers, toes, ankles… the list goes on. The tissues in and around the joint become degenerated over time which leads to decreased function and stability, and sometimes increased pain. If you’re aged 65 years or over, it is highly unlikely that you wouldn’t have some joints in the body affected by OA. Not everybody with an osteoarthritic knee has crippling pain when they walk, but with severe degeneration, it is likely that a person will experience some pain at some point. Joints in the elderly that are commonly affected by OA include the knees, hips, shoulders, hands and spinal joints.
Signs and symptoms include pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, swelling, popping or clicking, and features of instability including ‘giving way’ of joints. The muscles around the joints also become weak, providing less support to the joint, which can lead to further degeneration over time. Fortunately, we can help people with osteoarthritic joints using a range of hands-on techniques, strengthening and flexibility exercise prescription, as well as lifestyle advice which can all help to de-load the joints, slow the progression of the disease and improve joint function.
Gout and pseudogout
These are two conditions whereby the body deposits tiny crystals within the joints and surrounding tissues that lead to inflammation, pain, and ultimately, arthritic joints. Gout is characterised by the presence of excessive levels of a substance called ‘uric acid’ in the blood. Pseudogout is characterised by the presence of calcium pyrophosphate dehydrate crystals (CPPD for short). Both conditions can lead to significant degeneration, destruction and deformity of the bones, joints and supporting tissues. The frequency of these conditions in the general population increases with age and can affect many of the usual joints affected by OA. Gout will commonly affect the joint where the big toe meets the main part of the foot. The pain levels of gout and pseudogout are often reported to be severe. In an acute attack of gout, having a bed sheet resting on the joint in bed is said to be very painful!
Can your chiro help? Yes and no. Yes, we can help to treat the effects of a dysfunctional and arthritic joint. No, we cannot treat the gout or pseudogout directly. These are medical conditions and require the input of your doctor to help get the condition under control.
The risk of fracturing a bone increases with age. Rates of osteoporosis (very low bone mineral density leading to weakened bones) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass as we age) are high amongst the elderly population. The loss of strength of the musculoskeletal system as a result of these conditions leads to increased frailty and susceptibility to falls and resultant fractures. Fractured hips from falls is a common outcome for elderly people with osteoporosis, leading to poor quality of life and an increased risk of death. Fractures of the pelvis, forearm and arm are also common culprits.
With fractures, prevention is always better than cure. Chiropractors can give you advice on ways to reduce the risk of fractures through lifestyle and exercise regimes. We can also help the body during the healing process following a fracture. If you are unsure of how we can help, call us today on 5998 4554 to find out.
These are just some of the common complaints we see in clinic from our elderly clientele. Other common elderly health-related problems include constipation, reduced vision and hearing and incontinence. We hope this has opened your eyes to some of the challenges faced with getting old. But remember, it’s not all doom and gloom. Act early in life to reduce the effects later on, eat well, move your body often and maintain strength by continuing to exercise as you age. Establish healthy habits now and you will no doubt age gracefully!
- United Nations. 2020. International Day of Older Persons. [Online]. Available from: https://www.un.org/en/observances/older-persons-day. [Accessed 07 Sep 2020]
- Gheno, R. et al. 2012. Musculoskeletal disorders in the elderly. Journal of Clinical Imaging Science. 2 (3). 1-8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424705/
- org. 2020. Osteoarthritis. [Online]. Available from: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/osteoarthritis. [Accessed 07 Sep 2020]
- 2018. Is it gout or pseudogout? [Online]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/pseudogout-vs-gout. [Accessed 07 Sep 2020]
About the author:
Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor at Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre.