should seniors use chiropractic?
Regular chiropractic care helps all kinds of people, young and old, improve health and mobility and regain control of their lives. Chiropractic care for the senior population will help manage and even eliminate acute and chronic pain, increase flexibility, improve mobility and function, restore postural alignment, enhance balance, de-stress and tune the nervous system, improve general health and wellbeing. Even increase the overall quality of life.
Chiropractic care is especially important for maturing and elderly adults because of the dramatic changes that occur in the spine with increasing age. As we age, spinal discs, joints, ligaments, muscles and other spinal tissues become weaker, less hydrated, more fibrous, and less able to withstand normal strain. As a result, back pain from spinal degeneration (arthritis) becomes more prominent, soft tissues increase as the body is more vulnerable to injury. As the time to heal from injury increases as we age, minimizing risk and optimizing overall health and wellness becomes even more important.
Modern chiropractic procedures take into consideration the nature of the aging spine and the many abnormalities present to provide an effective, safe and non-invasive treatment plan. Through the use of 21st century gentle adjusting techniques, physical therapies, and incorporation of stretching and exercise programs spinal pain is reduced, spinal stresses are decreased, flexibility and mobility are improved, and degeneration is minimized.
What the benefits of Chiropractic Care for Seniors
Routine chiropractic care has a number of benefits which are especially important as we age:
- Pain relief from neck, spine and joint pain
- Decrease in muscle stiffness, spasms and rigidity
- Increased mobility and range of motion
- Straighter, aligned posture
- Increased balance and coordination
- Increased sense of well-being and overall energy
- Decreased tissue inflammation
- Decreased arthritis and arthritic joint pain
- Minimized spinal stress and tension
- Reduced risk of fall injuries
Do You Know A Senior Who Could Benefit From A Chiropractic Check-Up?
Are There Studies Showing the Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Aging Adults?
According to one paper chiropractors may be well-positioned to play an important role in health promotion, injury and disease prevention, and on geriatric care teams, due to their practice style and holistic philosophy. Chiropractic services are safe and relatively low-cost, and patient satisfaction with them is very high. Relative to musculoskeletal care in elderly patients, chiropractic adjustments are recommended by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research for the care of acute low back pain, and the American Geriatric Society Panel Guidelines for the Management of Chronic Pain state that non-pharmaceutical interventions such as chiropractic may be appropriate. Various lower-force chiropractic techniques are available as safe alternatives to drugs and surgery for musculoskeletal complaints in the older patient. Due to the prevalence of these conditions in older patients, and the success of chiropractic in caring for these patients, interdisciplinary geriatric health care teams should include the doctor of chiropractic.
(Killinger LZ. Chiropractic and geriatrics: a review of the training, role, and scope of chiropractic in caring for aging patients. Clin Geriatr Med. 2004 May; 20(2):223-35.)
One study evaluated the health status of 414 elderly individuals (average age of 80 years) and compared those individuals under chiropractic care with those not under chiropractic care. The researchers found a number of significant findings which included:
- 87% of those who used chiropractic care rated their health as good or excellent compared with only 68% in the non-chiropractic group
- Only 13% of those who used chiropractic care rated their health as fair or poor compared with 32% in the non-chiropractic group
- 44% of those who used chiropractic care reported having arthritis compared with 66% in the non-chiropractic care group
- Those who used chiropractic care were more likely to still be doing strenuous levels of exercise
- At 3 years follow-up, less than 5% of those who used chiropractic care used a nursing home while a staggering 48% of those who did not use chiropractic care did use a nursing home
- At 3 years follow-up, only 26% of those who used chiropractic care were hospitalized compared with 48% of those in the non-chiropractic group
(Coulter, PhD et al. Chiropractic and Care for the Elderly. Top Clin Chiro 1996; 3(2):46-55.)
Other research attempted to define more clearly the exact nature of Chiropractic Maintenance Care. The study population consisted of elderly chiropractic patients who had received health-promotion and prevention services for at least five years at a minimum of four chiropractic visits per year. Patients were selected from 73 chiropractic offices in six geographic locations across the USA. Doctors enrolled the first 10 consenting patients who met the inclusion criteria, and data were gathered on health habits, expenditures of health services, frequency of use, and perceived value of chiropractic prevention and health promotion services. Results included:
- An average of 16.95 visits were made per patient per year for chiropractic MC treatments
- Stretching exercises, aerobic exercises, dietary advice, and other prevention strategies were commonly recommended
- Patients reported making only half the annual number of visits to medical providers compared with the national average for patients 65 and older
- The health habits of patients receiving MC were similar to or better than those of the general population
(Rupert RL, Manello D, Sandefur R. Maintenance care: health promotion services administered to U.S. chiropractic patients aged 65 and older, Part II. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Jan. 2000: 23(1), pp10-19.)
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CEO In-Joy Life Chiropractic and Laser Care
Certified in Postural Neurology
Doctor of Chiropractic
A systematic literature review and consensus process undertaken by Dr. Cheryl Hawk and colleagues has yielded the latest evidence-informed best practices for doctors of chiropractic regarding appropriate evaluation, management and manual treatment of older patients.
Updating 2010 recommendations by reviewing research from Oct. 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2016, the new best-practice guidelines “[strengthen] statements regarding the safety of manipulation … and additional statements were added recommending that DCs advise patients on exercise and that manipulation and mobilization contribute to general positive outcomes beyond pain reduction only.” Here is a sampling of other recommendations included in the update to help guide your clinical decision-making when caring for older adults:
- Older adults often have significant musculoskeletal degeneration with chronic symptoms which may benefit from supportive management in the form of periodic evaluation and interventions that enable the older adult to maintain functional activities.”
- Among older adult chiropractic patients, recent studies indicate no evidence of higher risk for serious adverse events and no evidence for causation of strokes. Furthermore, there is emerging evidence indicating older patients receiving chiropractic care (particularly mobilizations and manipulative procedures of the spine and peripheral joints) experience a variety of positive clinical outcomes and a high level of satisfaction with their care.”
- Higher-force manual techniques that may put strain on osseous structures are contraindicated in the presence of severe osteoporosis or other bone-weakening processes.”
- Advanced age alone is not necessarily a clinical indication for diagnostic imaging. The use of conventional radiography and other imaging procedures should be based on current evidence-informed clinical practice guidelines and the clinical judgment of the managing clinician.”
- Additional factors that must be considered during the case history for this age group include atypical presentation of many clinical conditions, under reporting of disease, overestimation of cognitive function, polypharmacy, and ageist attitudes held by patients, caregivers, family, and health care providers.”
A link to the full text of “Best Practices for Chiropractic Care for Older Adults,” published in JMPT and featuring numerous other recommendations for clinical application, appears in the digital version of this article.
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