If there is one surety in life it is that we will age. Our musculoskeletal system is not immune from ageing - it affects us all to varying degrees. As we age the joints and surrounding tissues undergo changes. These include a decrease in the available movement of the joint, and weakening and wasting of the surrounding muscles. Additionally, musculoskeletal strains, sprains and injuries we have suffered during our lives often resurface and cause discomfort, and we generally take longer to recover from such flare-ups. All of these factors lead to a decrease of musculoskeletal function and can increase wear and tear within our joints.
Some joints are more likely to be affected as we get older. For example, joints within the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet take much of our body’s weight, and as such are more susceptible to degeneration and arthritis. It is the loading of these joints, notably when performing everyday movements such as walking, getting up out of a chair or even just standing for long periods, which results in noticeable stiffness and discomfort.
The more work these joints are asked to do, the more the localised area can become painful. Sufferers often talk about a dull uncomfortable pain that is worse with activity. For example, working in the garden with the requisite bending at the waist may cause back pain, and walking for a prolonged period may cause knee or hip pain. As the movement becomes more restricted, the muscles around the joint waste and weaken due to a decrease in use. This exacerbates the problem further.
At this point you can make a decision to accept the inevitability of ageing and its consequences, or you can choose to see what an osteopath can achieve through a mix of treatments, exercise prescription and nutritional advice. For example, although it is correct that when a joint is worn it cannot be reversed, the pain you experience often arises from the surrounding tissues, not from the joint itself. Wear and tear of a joint can often be slowed considerably if a person takes such a proactive approach.
With the varied techniques that osteopathy offers, i will look to decrease the forces acting on the joint, increase its range and quality of motion and build up the strength of muscles around the joint. It may also be relevant to look at other factors such as the body’s postural adaptions and compensations, lifestyle, weight and diet (including supplement advice). This mix of treatment and advice may assist you to a more pain-free life and enable you to carry on doing the things that you love to do.
You need not put up with pain just because you are getting older, and many of my mature clients have been able to resume a more active lifestyle following treatment. Of course there are cases when you may need an alternative to osteopathy. In such a situation we can refer you privately for imaging, or back to your GP, as necessary.