Many of my patients are people in their 50s and early 60s whose elderly parents have started to become frail and dependent. Some of them may have dementia, but more often the problems are physical. As the parents age, their children find themselves taking on responsibilities for them which can be stressful, as well as time-consuming. But are these ageing processes and the pain and limitation inevitable?
Often when older people come to see me because of back pain or perhaps an arthritic hip, they will say that they went to see their GP and were told that it was because of their age and there is nothing that can be done about it.
This really makes me boil. Of course we all know that the NHS is underfunded and GPs have very little time with each patient, but to give someone this sort of brush-off is unforgivable. It is true that changes take place in our bodies as we age: connective tissue loses its elasticity and our bones become more brittle. But it is possible to slow these processes down and sometimes to reverse them a little.
During my years in practice I have treated many older people, some of whom have been extremely stiff and bent over. In every case it has been possible to get a little more movement in the patient’s spine and that extra mobility yields benefits in terms of reduced pain and improved function and quality of life.
I recently treated an elderly man of 92. He had fallen a few days earlier and was experiencing pain across his shoulders. When I touched them, the muscles in his shoulders were very tight and I could sense that they were holding shock from the fall. He has quite a marked stoop, which he had assumed could not be changed, but when I treated him I found that as well as helping his shoulder muscles to relax, I could get a little movement in his upper back and that we could reverse that stoop to some extent. I think he was pleasantly surprised to find that he could sit up straighter (though he will never be able to sit ramrod straight!).
If you have an elderly parent who is suffering with low back pain or arthritis, you may want to suggest they come in for an assessment. I am now able to see less able-bodied patients in Bedford Consulting Rooms, which is full disabled accessible, with on-site parking and no stairs to climb!
Sorrel Pindar, registered osteopath. Call me on 01234 409538; email: firstname.lastname@example.org