According to a 2019 study published by the American Journal of Managed Care, accessibility to chiropractic care among elderly patients can be a crucial factor in their well-being. The study involved nearly 85,000 Americans who were enrolled in Medicare by virtue of their retirement age; each of these patients suffered from various spine conditions that ranged from occasional neck and back discomfort to compromised mobility. The conclusions of the study suggest that chiropractic therapy is highly ideal in this regard for the following reasons:
- Compared to medical services to treat spinal conditions, chiropractic treatments tend to be more affordable. This is important insofar as the estimated annual cost of spinal care in the United States, which was more than $85 billion in 2018.
- Even though chiropractic services are not classified as conventional healthcare, they are approved by Medicare, and they are often recommended to American seniors.
- There is no need to get a physician referral to access chiropractic care. This is vital to the ongoing efforts of making healthcare services more holistic and accessible under the auspices of the American Care Act of 2010.
- More diagnostic imaging services, which are significant within the spectrum of managed elderly care, are being requested by chiropractors. It is important to note that these diagnostics are not automatically reimbursed by Medicare unless they have a medical referral; only manual therapy and rehabilitation qualifies for direct reimbursement.
Decades ago, chiropractic treatments were not normally recommended to elderly patients, and this was despite the high incidence of lower back pain as we get older. These days, the evidence is now showing that the use of chiropractic treatments can have a significant impact on the quality of life for elderly people, and this is because it can make a great difference in the ability to sleep and to relieve pain. In the United Kingdom, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine along with the Cochrane Collaboration and the American College of Physicians in the U.S. all support the recommendation that elderly patients suffering from lower back pain should be offered spinal adjustment therapy as a valid form of treatment.
Non-specific discomfort, neuralgia, myalgia, and neuropathy of the back tend to be among the most common reasons elderly Americans seek medical treatment. In many cases, these ailments are related to degenerative conditions that come with aging; nonetheless, many older patients deal with spinal subluxation without being aware of it. Back pain may present differently among older adults. For example, older adults have more frequent nonspecific back pain than younger adults, and many older adults experience back pain triggered by activity or stress. It should not be surprising to learn that quite a few patients discover chiropractic services after their 55th birthday, and they do so because they start experiencing lumbago symptoms.
The Safety and Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care for Elderly Patients
Many older patients who visit chiropractors for the first time will do so with a certain level of uncertainty. These are patients who probably had reservations in their younger years about chiropractic care because of what they may have perceived as osteopathic manipulation, which should be more accurately described as spinal adjustment, and which is just one of many treatments within the chiropractic spectrum of therapy and rehabilitation.
The American College of Physicians has described chiropractic therapy as a safe treatment option for older patients who suffer lower back pain. Thanks to years of clinical research, we know that chiropractic care can often be recommended to treat the following conditions:
- Neck pain
- Sports injuries
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic pain
When treating elderly patients who have a history of osteoporosis or other conditions that weaken the bone structure, the adjustments, and manual techniques are dialed down accordingly, thus increasing the safety of the procedures.
Chiropractic Treatments Versus Invasive Options
In all medical specialties, the least invasive approach is always preferred. In the specific case of chiropractic care, invasive techniques are shunned. Musculoskeletal pain can not always be solved through surgical treatments; in fact, many post-surgical patients consult with chiropractors when pain is an issue that does not seem to go away.
Surgical risks increase as we get older. Everything from the ability of soft tissue to recover to the propensity of infections is amplified in elderly patients. There is also the matter of prescribing strong analgesics and opioids to patients who are older, and who happen to be at greater risk of dependency and experiencing side effects. When you take these matters into consideration, the non-invasive advantage of chiropractic care makes even more sense.
Constant pain is something no one should have to deal with as they get older. In order for patients to become pain-free, they must begin with healthy joints, healthy muscles, and healthy tissues. These elements can be built up through a gentle, holistic approach to therapy and self-help that includes an understanding of the body’s natural healing process, which is a tenet of chiropractic care.
More Benefits of Chiropractic Therapy for Elderly Patients
The chiropractic practice focuses on the direct treatment of spinal soft tissue through the adjustment of specific structures of the body. Chiropractors use various techniques to diagnose and treat conditions such as back pain and others we have already mentioned. Pain relief is the main benefit of chiropractic care; it provides a more direct approach when compared to conventional treatments that involve prescribing painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications that mostly provide symptomatic relief.
An additional benefit of chiropractic therapy is related to restoring adequate range of motion, which for many elderly patients can deliver an improvement in their quality of life. Being able to fully bend down at the waist whenever grandchildren want to be picked up and held, for example, can bring considerable happiness. We can say the same about chiropractic adjustments that improve range of motion at the wrists; this treatment can alleviate the kind of pain that prevents patients from engaging in activities such as gardening and playing instruments.
There is more to chiropractic care than just spinal adjustments and soft tissue interventions to correct subluxation. In recent years, chiropractors have been incorporating more aspects of physical therapy and rehabilitation into their practice. We know that the degenerative changes that the cervical section and the spine go through as we get older cannot be reversed, but they can be adjusted so that we can properly adjust to them. These changes are known to diminish our balance and coordination abilities, but they can be compensated through focused exercises.
It is important to understand that the spine is not a straight line. There are parts of the spine that naturally curve to help us stay upright, and there are parts that naturally curve to help us keep our balance. Many chiropractors and physical therapists will begin by working with the lower back, or the lumbar region. The hips and hamstrings are the regions that tend to need the most focus and attention to correct before moving on to the upper back. They are the areas where some of the most common maladies that chiropractors and physical therapists will have to work with are occurring most frequently. Because the spine doesn’t just “go around” the hip joints, it can and should be adjusted to properly meet the changing needs of the individual. So-called regenerative exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and improve the connective tissue functions of the hips are crucial to improving motor coordination and balance.
With more seniors choosing to stay home instead of spending their golden years in nursing homes, including chiropractic care in their lives makes perfect sense because of its lower cost and high therapeutic value. The benefits are indisputable, and there is a solid track record of safety and effectiveness that makes chiropractic treatment highly recommended for elderly patients.