by John Petrozzi
The population we live in is an ageing one. In Australia, life expectancy for men and women is 80.5 and 84.6 respectively with the median age estimated to be at 40. In comparison to other nations, our high standard of living and quality of life is the reason behind this. Encouraging as it may sound, it is important to understand that as we age, so do our bodies.
Changes to our bones and muscles, height and weight, sensation, digestion and circulation are inevitable and happen so gradually, we are often unaware they are occurring. Sometimes a sudden illness or injury can make us aware the ageing process is taking place. Conditions such as dementia, osteoporosis and arthritis are some examples of common diseases that are associated with ageing.
Musculoskeletal injuries such as muscle strains or tears are controllable and can be done so with correct Chiropractic treatment aimed at maintenance and prevention.
In Australia dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in elderly populations and is the third leading cause of death in this country. It is a condition characterised by a collection of symptoms caused by disorders of the brain leading to mental abnormalities affecting memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. As a health care practitioner, family member, or companion, it is important to identify warning signs that may present with an individual suffering from Dementia. These can range from:
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Recent memory loss that affects job skills
- Problems with language
- Disorientation of time and place
- Misplacing things
- Changes in personality
- Loss of initiative
If presented with a patient with similar features, a mental status evaluation is indicated and should be performed. The examination will investigate areas such as memory, language, thoughts and cognitive functions.
Osteoporosis (OP) is another disease commonly affecting the geriatric population. It is a reduction in bone quantity and is classified as the most common metabolic disease of bone and is considered almost silent as pain only occurs following a fracture or deformity affecting a weakened bone. Although difficult to diagnose clinically, radiologic features serve as the best method of identifying an individual with OP. Areas to examine include the spine, pelvis, femurs and sacrum where fractures most commonly occur.
Also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteoarthritis is a progressive, non-inflammatory disease characterised by changes in cartilage and joints affecting 1.3 million Australians.The disease targets small joints of the hand and larger weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. The exact cause of DJD is unknown. However, its sequence of progression is well documented and helpful in providing care to individuals at certain stages of the disease. Common complaints include intermittent episodes of aching pain, stiffness, swelling (especially in the morning) and may be aggravated by changes in temperature. Furthermore, DJD can be diagnosed through radiologic signs commonly seen in X-rays. These include:
- Asymmetric distribution
- Non uniform loss of joint space
- Osteophytes/bony spurs
- Subchondral sclerosis
- Subchondral cysts
- Loose bodies of bone within the joint
- Articular deformity
- Joint subluxation
Chiropractic care has long played an important role in providing conservative health care to the geriatric population, with both clinical and documented evidence supporting its effectiveness as a treatment modality. Both preventive and ameliorative care is available. If you’re concerned about your health as you age or are seeking gentle, non-invasive care for someone you love, consider talking with a qualified Chiropractor.