Getting Older

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Staying active and keeping healthy

Retirement can bring time for leisure , travel opportunities and interests to the older person. This is the chance to take up those sports and activities you never had time for whilst working and bringing up your family. The body however has changed . It has lost some of its elasticity and ability to adapt. It has also experienced injuries and postural stress during those years, often resulting  in repetitive strain injuries, stiffness and degenerative changes.

The onset of health issues such as high blood pressure, digestive and circulatory disorders and arthritis have all begun to have a noticeable effect on the body’s energy and ability to perform.

Many grandparents also help working parents by caring for their children- a pleasure for many but also a strain on the older body.

Quality of life is especially important for this age group when there are increasing concerns about loss of independence and mobility.

Osteopathy can help greatly during this time.

 

Muscle pain

Muscle pain and tension is often the symptom not the cause of pain. Muscles can be injured by over exertion or by suddenly increasing exercise levels. But one of the main reasons that muscles become tense and painful is when they are working hard to protect or support an area of the body that is  injured, stiff, inflamed, or arthritic joints. In this case treatment to the muscles  such as heat and massage can bring short term relief but unless the underlying cause is addressed , the relief will be short-lived and the muscle pain will recur.

Osteopathic treatment is aimed at identifying and treating the underlying cause of muscle tension and pain to reduce the likelihood of it recurring.

 

Posture changes in the spine

As we get older it is common for the posture to change and for the shoulders and spine to become more rounded and stooped. This can cause muscle and joint pain in the spine and also restrict mobility of the ribs and rib cage making it harder to breathe deeply.

Many people become less active as they get older or are unable to exercise due to pain. This inevitably leads to loss of muscle tone so the posture is less well supported and the back more vulnerable to injury and strain. Core stability exercise such as pilates can be very helpful to maintain good muscle tone and support the spine, while yoga helps relaxation and also keeps the body supple and flexible.

 

Effect of posture change on internal organs

Any significant change  in the shape of the spine also changes the internal shape of the body cavities and can affect the function of the internal organs. For example, rounding of the spine in the chest area and the associated restriction of rib movement can make it harder to breathe deeply.

 

Stress and anxiety

The chest area is one of  the first to tighten up  when we are worried and under stress. Tension causes muscles to tighten, especially the diaphragm, and reduces the ability of the chest to expand fully in breathing. This can cause breathlessness. Improving the mobility of the spine and ribs can often make breathing easier.

 

Treatment

Gentle osteopathic treatment to the spine and related structures can release tension in muscles. This helps to encourage normal breathing movements and helps the lungs to work to their best potential.

 

Joint pain and arthritis

Most people will have suffered trauma at some point in their lives such as from falls, car accidents or sporting injuries. It is well known that injury to a joint increases the likelihood of arthritis developing. Arthiritis can affect any joint in the body, but the back, hips and knees are the most common and debilitating.

An arthritic joint is characterised by:

  • Enlargement and persistant swelling of hat joint
  • Aching , pain and stiffness , worse on initially moving the joint after resting or when first moving and getting going in the morning.
  • Pain at night
  • Increased pain and swelling if the joint is overused.

It is also important to consider the extra load on other parts of the body of compensating for an arthritic joint. For example, it is common for the lower back to be more painful when there is an arthritic hip.

Gentle manipulative osteopathic treatment can help to improve local circulation around the joint, release muscle tension and improve the range of motion of the joint. Treatment can also healp to reduce the strain on other parts of the body so that the arthritic joint is better tolerated.

If replacement surgery on an arthritic joint is finally needed , the body tissues are generally in better health and this aids recovery. Treatment after surgery can help the rest of the body cope with the demands of rehabilitation of the affected joint.

 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones that occurs with age. It leaves the bones weakened  and more vulnerable to fracture. This may mean that a fracture is more likely with a relatively minor fall, or that the vertebral bodies are vulnerable to collapse and loss of height.

Osteopaths cannot help osteoporosis directly, but can help with the effects of it on the related structures of the body.