Decreasing the Risk & Severity of Falls

Can Chiropractic Care Help Prevent Falls?

While chiropractic care has benefits for all people, the benefits to seniors can be of particular importance.

Regular Chiropractic Care Can Provide Important Benefits for Seniors

Chiropractic care increases balance and coordination: As we age, balance and coordination becomes more difficult. Studies have shown that the receptors located in the joints of the upper cervical spine are largely responsible for providing the brain with essential information important for balance and coordination. Research has also shown that injury to these “neck” receptors is a significant cause of balance and coordination problems in humans.

Studies have shown that chiropractic care can help restore balance and coordination by stimulating the joint receptors  in the cervical spine. This stimulation is thought to restore or normalize joint receptor functioning which leads to improvements in balance and coordination.

Chiropractic care can decrease injuries, including falls: Unlike when a child or athlete falls, an older person who falls is more susceptible to suffer significant injuries.

Injuries as a result of falls are a particular risk to seniors and one of the major causes of injury in the elderly:

  • Responsible for 90% of the 850,000 bone fractures which occur annually among Americans past the age of 65
  • In people over the age of 65 account for over 80% of injury related hospital admissions and they are the leading cause of accidental death
  • New Zealand: 230 deaths per year and Australia = 1000 deaths per year
  • One third of community dwelling older adults experiences one or more falls each year
  • Australia: Related health care costs estimated to be as high as $4,500,000,000 annually
  • USA: Related health-care costs as much as $30,000,000,000 annually

A report recently published on seniors’ falls in Canada by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) asserted that seniors who fall are fall are ten times more likely to be hospitalized and eight times more likely to die than are children who fall. In addition, recovery from a fall-related injury is often prolonged or incomplete, which in turn leads to a worsening of fall-related risk factors such as de-conditioning due to being sedentary.

The report says that chiropractors have an important part to play with respect to fall prevention. Not only can practitioners champion many of the interventions recommended (home safety checklists, physical activity), but some experts also suggest that chiropractic care, especially spinal manipulative therapy contributes to decreasing the risk of falls among seniors as well. Although there is at yet little medical evidence for such a contribution, there are a few studies which serve as examples of this important research direction.

The chiropractic profession in Canada has taken a leadership role in the area of fall prevention among seniors by developing a falls prevention program targeted toward both older patients and chiropractors themselves. Called The Best Foot Forward: Don’t Let A Fall Get You Down, this fall prevention program was developed in 2008 for the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

The Best Foot Forward Program was divided into two broad sections. The first section including epidemiological information, risk factors, a quiz a person could take to determine his or her risk of falling and a home safety checklist.  Please email Surrey Pain & Wellness Clinic at info@surreywellness.com to receive a copy of the checklist.

Chiropractic Care for Aging Adults

Is it More Important?

Regular chiropractic care helps all kinds of people, young and old, improve health and mobility and regain control of their lives.  Chiropractic care for the “third age” or senior population will help manage and even eliminate acute and chronic pain, increase flexibility, improve mobility and function, restore postural alignment, enhance balance, de-stress and tune the nervous system, improve general health and wellbeing.  Even increase the overall quality of life.

Chiropractic care is especially important for maturing and elderly adults because of the dramatic changes that occur in the spine with increasing age. As we age, spinal discs, joints, ligaments, muscles and other spinal tissues become weaker, less hydrated, more fibrous, and less able to withstand normal strain. As a result, back pain from spinal degeneration (arthritis) becomes more prominent, soft tissues increase as the body is more vulnerable to injury.  As the time to heal from injury increases as we age, minimizing risk and optimizing overall health and wellness becomes even more important.

Modern chiropractic procedures take into consideration the nature of the aging spine and the many abnormalities present to provide an effective, safe and non-invasive treatment plan. Through the use of 21st century gentle adjusting techniques, physical therapies, and incorporation of stretching and exercise programs spinal pain is reduced, spinal stresses are decreased, flexibility and mobility are improved, and degeneration is minimized.

What are the Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Aging Adults?

Routine chiropractic care has a number of benefits which are especially important as we age:

  • Pain relief from neck, spine and joint pain
  • Decrease in muscle stiffness, spasms and rigidity
  • Increased mobility and range of motion
  • Straighter, aligned posture
  • Increased balance and coordination
  • Increased sense of well-being and overall energy
  • Decreased tissue inflammation
  • Decreased arthritis and arthritic joint pain
  • Minimized spinal stress and tension
  • Reduced risk of fall injuries

Are There Studies Showing the Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Aging Adults?

According to one paper chiropractors may be well-positioned to play an important role in health promotion, injury and disease prevention, and on geriatric care teams, due to their practice style and holistic philosophy. Chiropractic services are safe and relatively low-cost, and patient satisfaction with them is very high. Relative to musculoskeletal care in elderly patients, chiropractic adjustments are recommended by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research for the care of acute low back pain, and the American Geriatric Society Panel Guidelines for the Management of Chronic Pain state that non-pharmaceutical interventions such as chiropractic may be appropriate. Various lower-force chiropractic techniques are available as safe alternatives to drugs and surgery for musculoskeletal complaints in the older patient. Due to the prevalence of these conditions in older patients, and the success of chiropractic in caring for these patients, interdisciplinary geriatric health care teams should include the doctor of chiropractic.

(Killinger LZ. Chiropractic and geriatrics: a review of the training, role, and scope of chiropractic in caring for aging patients. Clin Geriatr Med. 2004 May; 20(2):223-35.)

One study evaluated the health status of 414 elderly individuals (average age of 80 years) and compared those individuals under chiropractic care with those not under chiropractic care. The researchers found a number of significant findings which included:

  • 87% of those who used chiropractic care rated their health as good or excellent compared with only 68% in the non-chiropractic group
  • Only 13% of those who used chiropractic care rated their health as fair or poor compared with 32% in the non-chiropractic group
  • 44% of those who used chiropractic care reported having arthritis compared with 66% in the non-chiropractic care group
  • Those who used chiropractic care were more likely to still be doing strenuous levels of exercise
  • At 3 years follow-up, less than 5% of those who used chiropractic care used a nursing home while a staggering 48% of those who did not use chiropractic care did use a nursing home
  • At 3 years follow-up, only 26% of those who used chiropractic care were hospitalized compared with 48% of those in the non-chiropractic group

(Coulter, PhD et al. Chiropractic and Care for the Elderly. Top Clin Chiro 1996; 3(2):46-55.)

Other research attempted to define more clearly the exact nature of Chiropractic Maintenance Care. The study population consisted of elderly chiropractic patients who had received health-promotion and prevention services for at least five years at a minimum of four chiropractic visits per year. Patients were selected from 73 chiropractic offices in six geographic locations across the USA. Doctors enrolled the first 10 consenting patients who met the inclusion criteria, and data were gathered on health habits, expenditures of health services, frequency of use, and perceived value of chiropractic prevention and health promotion services. Results included:

  • An average of 16.95 visits were made per patient per year for chiropractic MC treatments
  • Stretching exercises, aerobic exercises, dietary advice, and other prevention strategies were commonly recommended
  • Patients reported making only half the annual number of visits to medical providers compared with the national average for patients 65 and older
  • The health habits of patients receiving MC were similar to or better than those of the general population

(Rupert RL, Manello D, Sandefur R. Maintenance care: health promotion services administered to U.S. chiropractic patients aged 65 and older, Part II. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Jan. 2000: 23(1), pp10-19.)

Chiropractic Care Can Reduce the Risk of Falls by:

  1. Specific chiropractic adjustment techniques to normalize spinal joint receptors which provide the brain with important balance and coordination information
  2. Stretching and exercise programs to increase strength, flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination
  3. Diet and nutritional counseling to improve nutritional status, increase energy levels, and increase sense of well-being

Chiropractic increases joint nutrition and relieves spinal joint arthritis: Spinal discs and spinal joints receive their nutrition and eliminate their wastes through joint movement. Without sufficient movement, adhesions and scar tissue will soon develop in the joints.

Chiropractic care involves restoring and optimizing spinal and extra-spinal joint motion which brings vital nutrients into the joint and flushes toxic waste products out. This helps keep the joints healthy and minimizes the degenerative joint changes which lead to arthritis.

Chiropractic decreases joint and tissue degeneration: Similar to an out-of-aligned wheel on an automobile, a misaligned spine with abnormal biomechanics will wear out prematurely. As all moving parts will eventually wear down over time, it’s important to get the maximum “mileage” out of your spine, especially since it’s the only one you’ll ever get.

Chiropractic restores postural alignment: Bad posture has been linked with aches and pains, poor emotional state, increased disability, reduced health and wellbeing, and even premature death. In general people’s posture becomes more rounded, compressed and distorted with age. Maintaining regular chiropractic care can help to reduce the underlying biomechanical and neurological causes of poor posture.

Chiropractic care balances the nervous system: Modern chiropractic techniques are less about bones and muscles, and more about nerves and energy. By analysing and correcting the stored tension that builds up in everyone’s body, chiropractic adjustments can help to tune up the whole body. The older we get, the more accumulated stress and strain we carry, and the more we can benefit from a regular chiropractic adjustment.

Chiropractic care can increase the overall feeling of health and well-being: When you’re free from nagging pain, stiff joints and can do the things you enjoy (golf, gardening, playing with the grandchildren, etc.) life is far more enjoyable. Feeling good, staying healthy and doing the things that make us happy are what keeps us looking forward to each new day.

Regular chiropractic care in those over the age of 40 is aimed at increasing the quality of life, and not just the elimination of pain and correction of soft tissue abnormalities. Don’t cheat yourself from living life to its fullest…

What Else Can Chiropractic Help?

Chiropractic care can useful for so much more than aches and pains: Over the years many case studies, case series and longitudinal research has shown that chiropractic care can be beneficial for many ailments that commonly plague our aging population:

Sciatica, headaches, migraines, dizziness, vertigo and  Meniere’s Disease, as well as back, neck, shoulder, knee, hip and joint problems, be they associated with injury, disease or some of the “normal” degenerative issues associated with aging.

It is important to note that as in all medical treatments, outcomes vary between patients.

For more information, contact the clinic at 604.507.9929.