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Osteopathy For Older Adults

Thomas Pinna
|
November 1, 2021

Osteopathy for older adults

Ageing… we do it everyday and, despite our best efforts, it’s something we’re never going to escape! But there are certainly different ways of ageing; indeed, getting older does not necessarily mean turning frail, being in pain and feeling lonely. With the right resources, there is a lot that we can do to stay strong, active and lively whilst growing old. And by piecing together the latest scientific knowledge, plus using our own personal experiences, we can apply this bit by bit, day after day to help us ease into our golden years. 


At Core Clapton we are committed to raising awareness of what osteopathy has to offer as an alternative to drugs in the treatment of pain. This is ever so important as the global population is ageing, as exemplified by recent Eurostat data estimating that the population aged 65+ will increase from 18% in 2013 to 28% in 2060. And as the number of older people increases, so does the amount of them living with persistent pain and relying almost solely on medication as a form of relief; there must be alternatives to painkillers!

What is Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a safe and effective method for treating aches and pains. Osteopaths make use of their hands to assess the patient’s body and gently manipulate joints and muscles to relieve tension, stiffness and pain. Thanks to this treatment, osteopaths can help older patients move better and more confidently so they can live a fulfilling and active life regardless of their age. Let’s see in greater detail how osteopathy can help...

Pain in older adults

Despite the higher prevalence of older people living with persistent pain compared to younger sections of the population, older adults are less likely to receive good pain management. It may seem like a contradiction… but this is rooted in the belief that it is somewhat ‘normal’ for older people to be in pain. Thus, the most common way of treating pain is by prescribing short-lived pain medication instead of addressing other, more sustainable, areas for pain management such as physical activity, diet and psychological health.It is true that with ageing certain changes in the structure of our body and our nervous system make it more likely for acute pain to persist and become chronic. Nonetheless, pain should not be a normal state of being and definitely should not affect our ability to move, engage and relate with others. In other words, aches and pains are to be expected, we’ve all lived active lives and our body is letting us know that; however, as pain starts affecting other central aspects of our daily living, like moving and relating to people, it can fuel a vicious cycle leading to more pain, weakness and distress. Your osteopath’s aim is to break this cycle, and, where possible, prevent it occurring in the first place.


Osteopathy aids mobility

If you’ve entered the seasoned stage of your life, you probably know what we’re talking about: joints are not as flexible and free-moving as they used to be! As we age, joints naturally lose some of their lubrication and become more calcified. In other words, we grow stiffer… and that’s when osteopaths work their best! Osteopaths use their hands and body to gently move patients in all of those ways that they may feel unable to reach by themselves. By doing this, they encourage joints and spine to move through some of the ranges of motion that felt inaccessible and stretch muscles that have been growing tighter and tighter with time. The objective is to have patients leaving the osteopathic session feeling looser and more confident to move, so that the more they move by themselves, the freer the joints can get over time.


Osteopathy can aid balance

Loss of balance can be a serious issue in older life with potentially dramatic consequences. It may occasionally be a side effect of drug medication or symptom of something that requires further medical analysis, in both instances osteopaths would be able to direct patients towards the right course of action. Most commonly, however, a loss of sense of balance is a benign (normal) consequence of growing older as our nervous system, joints and muscles are less able to figure out where the body is in space (ie. positional awareness or proprioception)

Yet again, osteopathy can effectively help. Because our sense of balance partially depends on signals being sent from our muscles and joints to the brain, the better we move, the better these signals should be. Osteopathic techniques can temporarily improve the quality of movement, so that as the body is more stable patients can be led through exercises specifically designed to improve balance and overall confidence whilst standing. In short, the better you can move after an osteopathic session, the better the signals you’ll feed to your balance system and your chances of preventing falls. 

Mental health

When in pain, we move less. The less we move, the less we tend to meet friends, family or carry out our basic needs like shopping. In this state, loneliness becomes more apparent. You may have felt it first handedly, loneliness can really make us feel low and depressed. In this scenario, we are more likely to feel pain as there is less to distract us and we spend more time ruminating on the negative aspects of life, like pain. 

Even when it comes to mental health, maybe indirectly osteopathy has lots to offer. Osteopaths put at the centre of the treatment plan the patient’s personal needs and set realistic goals to work towards, whether it is to see family, friends or going shopping. It is the osteopath’s primary concern to ensure patients can live fulfilling lives as this determines the effectiveness of our treatment. 

General health check up

During an osteopathic consultation, the function and integrity of most areas of the body are assessed via attentive observation and touch. There aren’t many medical professionals that have a perspective as good as this when it comes to viewing the body's general health. On top of their musculoskeletal screening, osteopaths can detect skin conditions, ulcerations or swelling that patients were not aware of. 

Testimonials

Core Clapton is among the most diverse osteopathic clinics in the UK for patients' age groups, ethnicities and socioeconomic background. As part of our charity’s objectives, we collect testimonials and stories of patients attending our clinic. Some of our older patients’ lives have changed significantly after receiving osteopathic treatment at Core Clapton, being able now, despite the occasional niggle, to live active and fulfilling lives. 

You can read Stephen’s inspirational story on how Thomas helped relieve his knee pain and finally get back to walking his favourite parts of London. Or Jean’s story of resilience, marked by loss and comeback, and the invaluable help provided by Lisa to regain some of her balance. Or Stephen’s artistic life that was being crippled by constant shoulder pain, and that resumed thanks to Ruby’s help.

Even if you are suffering from a condition or diagnosed pathology, osteopaths will always look for health before disease. The smallest change in our ability to move and engage with the world can make a considerable impact. Sometimes, we just need help to remove the obstruction standing between us and our body’s ability to find health. If you're interested to know whether osteopathy can help you find health, call 0300 561 0161, or visit our website www.coreclapton.org.




By 

Thomas Pinna

Thomas completed a master’s degree in Osteopathy at Swansea University. He explores the interrelations between our physical and emotional health, and the neuroscience behind it, which led to publishing a research study in the renowned journal Frontier in Psychology. After graduating, Thomas joined the medical-equip Medical Volunteer International, providing Osteopathy for asylum-seekers at the Moria refugee camp. This experience strengthened his resolution to end health inequalities as it is often the case.

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