The population of this country is aging. The “baby boom” generation is now entering the Medicare patient pool. With health care reform, chiropractic is part of the eligible healthcare providing team. Because of these factors, chiropractic care is becoming a more popular treatment option in the elderly patient pool.
Elderly Population and Health Care
“By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000,” according to the Administration on Aging.1 Many health issues arise as people age, and traditional medical treatments may not be the sole treatment necessary for many individuals. Some of the health problems encountered may include: “Alzheimer’s and dementia, incontinence, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, sleep disorders, depression, osteoporosis.”2 With these disorders, there can be pain and nutritional concerns. Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) should also be under consideration as treatment options for the elderly population. The American Chiropractic Association lobbied to ensure that chiropractors would be included as health care practitioners, on a non-discriminatory basis, in President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.3
Chiropractic Treatments for the Elderly
According to the American Chiropractic Association, the elderly often suffer from “musculoskeletal conditions, such as nonspecific back and joint pain and osteoarthritis, common causes of disability and decreased function”. Chiropractors have several years of education and training in treating these kinds of conditions, and “chiropractic is, by far, the largest “alternative” health care profession”. Besides treating immediate pain conditions, many patients choose to continue to see their chiropractors for wellness care and preventative therapy. Chiropractic is part of a holistic approach to well-being, and it can be a complementary treatment method that works with other traditional medical care. Prevention can also include “exercises and healthful activities of daily living”. If a patient is frailer, gentler chiropractic adjustments can be used, such as “low force and soft tissue techniques”. Chiropractic can offer another option to doctors prescribing additional medications and surgeries for their elderly patients, as well.4
Benefits of Chiropractic
As adults mature, there are changes in the spine, discs, joints, muscles, and ligaments. Degeneration can happen, and it can take longer to heal from injuries. Mobility is decreased, and patients may be in more pain. Instead of providing symptomatic relief with medication, or permanent changes (and associated risks) with surgery, chiropractors can help their elderly patient with overall health and well-being. Chiropractors can provide pain relief, decreased stiffness, more range of motion and balance, decreased inflammation, less joint pain and degeneration, and reduce the risks related to fall injuries.5