Discussing Osteopathy and the Older Patient

11 February 2022

Osteopathy is a profession that can help people of all ages, including the older population. A lot of patients over the years have said to me that they have been told their pain is ‘to be expected at their age’ – Osteopaths are of quite the opposite opinion. Whilst I do not have a magic wand that can reverse the effects of time, Osteopaths are highly trained to work with the older body, in a gentle and effective way which can ease the effects of wear and tear.

Natural degeneration occurs throughout the body as we age, joints often have decreased space and muscles, tendons and ligaments lose some of their elasticity. Injuries in younger years and perhaps the occupational demands can catch up with you too. These natural changes can leave us feeling achy, sore, weaker and less inclined to keep active.

Yes, our body does degenerate with time and use, but just as cars benefit from a service and MOT so does your body! From head-to-toe Osteopaths are trained for 4 years at university to provide safe hands on treatment.

The two most common age related conditions that I see in the clinic are Osteo-Arthritis, and Inflammatory Arthritis (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis). Whilst Osteopathy cannot cure either of these conditions, Osteopathic treatment may help ease the physical symptoms by gently moving the affected joint/s through its natural range of movement, and providing gentle muscle release work to the (often spasming) muscles that support the joint.

Often the problematic joint/s is not the main structure causing the pain - other structures (be they bone, muscle, ligament or tendon) compensate to help ease the load on the degenerative joint – this means they themselves can become symptomatic. Osteopaths are trained to spot this, and can help soothe the compensatory structures.

However many ‘years young’ you are, I support my patients to have an active lifestyle as this is important for both the physical body and the mind. An active lifestyle as we get older helps in supporting continued independence as well as maintaining body condition. Lots of people sadly think that there can be no improvements made to certain age-related physical conditions, and often there are things that can be done to make things more manageable as well as more functional. This is why I provide safe and effective rehabilitation exercises for my patients, as movement is medicine for your body.

The two most common age related conditions that I see in the clinic are Osteo-Arthritis, and Inflammatory Arthritis (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis). Whilst Osteopathy can not cure these conditions, what we can help with is the symptoms.

It must also be remembered that the older patient can also suffer acute injuries, not everything is wear and tear related. However the older we are the harder it is for our body to make a full recovery; therefore help is more often needed. Osteopaths can help get you back on your feet again with gentle non-invasive safe treatments, and some top tips that can help prevent sudden injuries from occurring again.

As we get older we do often have other health conditions to be mindful about. Osteopaths are trained to understand and work with other ailments in a safe way. Osteopaths are also highly trained to spot things that have not been picked up on, such as osteoporosis for example. I have really good links with the local doctors, and I always ensure I communicate any concerns I may have to them, ensuring my patients receive the best possible care from me.

My advice if you are living with age related aches and pains is don’t be stoic and suffer. I am here to help you. Nothing makes me happier when I hear ‘Emily I picked the towel off the floor today and it didn’t hurt me’ or ‘I walked to the shop and back today, and I have not done that in a long time’.

Emily Coombes
Registered Osteopath (7416) and principal Osteopath at Kibworth Osteopaths & Pilates

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