Chiropractic for the Elderly–Pros and Cons

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Chiropractic care is increasing in popularity for a variety of illnesses, not just back or neck pain. Yet is this type of treatment a good idea for the elderly? With an estimated 5% of elderly adults in the United States using this type of therapy, it is important to understand its pros and cons to make the right decision.

In fact, 6% of older adults have disabling back pain and 23% have non-disabling back pain.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care

 

Typically the reason an elderly person seeks chiropractic care is for pain in the muscles and/or bones, with back pain being the most common complaint. In fact, 6% of older adults have disabling back pain and 23% have non-disabling back pain. However, many patients now see chiropractors for help with their ongoing health, whether as a treatment solution, complementary treatment, or for prevention of problems. Chiropractic itself holds as its philosophy the fact that, since the central nervous system is encased in the spinal chord, any obstruction or irregularity in the alignment of the vertebrae of the spine (subluxations, in chiropractic terms) can affect any organ of the body, as well as system-wide health.

 

Many patients realize at least one of the following benefits from chiropractic:

 

  • Pain relief – It is no surprise that many people turn to spinal manipulation techniques for pain relief. Chiropractors have the ability to fix the subluxations within the spine that cause pain and inflammation, without the use of medication. This means that the chiropractor fixes the underlying cause of the pain rather than masking it with medication and removing it only temporarily.
  • Natural treatment – Many medications have unpleasant side effects. With at least 92% of seniors having at least one chronic condition, it is important for this demographic to find a way to find relief without the need to take medication.
  • Increased quality of life – Chiropractic care helps a person continue to have a proper range of motion in all of their extremities, which can enhance their quality of life. It is normal for many seniors to assume that they will become stiffer and less capable of doing things as they age, but with the help of a chiropractor, this does not have to be the reality.
  • Lower risk of falls – With 33% of seniors falling every year, finding a plausible solution to this problem is a priority. Chiropractic care is helpful in this area as it helps to minimize subluxations in the spine and helps patients learn to stretch and exercise to improve their balance and strength throughout their senior years.
  • Help with chronic conditions – Certain conditions that the elderly suffer from can be treated or co-treated with chiropractic care. One study followed a group of seniors with COPD and their incidence of adverse events with the disease. After four weeks of chiropractic care, these study participants experienced a decreased number of adverse events and had a higher quality of life.

 

Disadvantages of Chiropractic Care

 

As with any treatment, there are certain issues that arise with chiropractic care. Chiropractice care is not utterly devoid of risks.

 

  • Risk of bone damage – The elderly population is known for its weaker bones, especially those who have osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. These patients could be at risk for bone fractures and other damage, which is why seeking medical approval for chiropractic treatment is often a good idea for the elderly.
  • Soreness – Many patients experience a high level of soreness after chiropractic treatment. Although this is normal because the chiropractor is putting things “back in place,” which might feel uncomfortable at first, the pain can be debilitating for someone with a low tolerance for pain.
  • Risk of injury – There are certain risks of injury with chiropractic care, as there are with any other treatments. In a generalized study of chiropractic patients, between 30 and 60 percent experienced a mild adverse effect from chiropractic treatment.
  • Risk of stroke – Everyone has a risk of stroke when they have their neck manipulated. The highest group at risk is young adults, but it is a risk to keep in mind when considering this type of treatment for the elderly.

 

Chiropractic care has its pros and cons, each of which needs to be weighed in conjunction with an elderly person’s overall health and wellness. A particularly frail and ill elderly person probably would not benefit from the advantages that a chiropractor can offer as much as a somewhat healthy, yet injured or moderately ill senior could. The best way to determine if chiropractic is a safe alternative is to seek the approval of one’s personal physician first.

 

Sources

 

Burke, J., Dougherty, P.E., Engel, R.M., Vemulpad, S. (July 2011).  Spinal Manipulative Therapy for Elderly Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Case Series. Journal of Manipulatiove and Physiological Therapeutics, 34(6): 413-417. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51538486_Spinal_Manipulative_Therapy_for_Elderly_Patients_With_Chronic_Obstructive_Pulmonary_Disease_A_Case_Series. Accessed on September 1, 2016.

 

Dougherty, P.E., Hawk, C., Weiner, D., Gleberzon, B., Andrew, K., Killinger, L. (2012). The role of chiropractic care in older adults. Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, 20:3. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3306193/. Accessed on September 1, 2016.

 

Ernst, E. (July 2007). Adverse effects of spinal manipulation: a systematic review. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 100(7): 330-338. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1905885/. Accessed on September 1, 2016.

 

Ernst, E. (2002).  Adverse Effects of Unconventional Therapies in the Elderly: A Systematic Review of the Recent Literature. Journal of the American Aging Association, 25: 11-20. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3455291/pdf/11357_2002_Article_2.pdf. Accessed on September 1, 2016.

 

American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. ASCP Fact Sheet. Senior Care Facts. Retrieved from https://www.ascp.com/page/seniorcarefacts. Accessed on August 29, 2016.

 

National Council on Aging. Falls Prevention Facts. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/. Accessed on August 29, 2016.

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