Physio for the Elderly
You’ve probably visited the physiotherapist after injuries and been referred before or after surgeries for rehabilitation. But as we age, perhaps we should consider going to the physiotherapist as more of a routine health check. You go to the dentist even when there’s nothing wrong. Why? Because you know that prevention is better than cure. Maintaining your balance and mobility as you age is an investment in your prolonged good health and independence!
There’s a problematic cycle of inaction that can set in all too easily as we age. Things that were once easy become difficult, so we adjust and reduce our activity, but as we move that little bit less our mobility reduces further… so we move a little bit less, and slowly, everyday activities become a challenge, and then painful, and eventually impossible. A physiotherapist can work with you to break this cycle.
Along with a general loss of mobility, fear of falling is usually a real concern for more mature patients. Older women may be particularly aware that a small fall can have big consequences as post-menopausal bones are likely more fragile than they once were. (Thank you, hormones!) Balance tends to deteriorate as we age due to our weakening muscles, fluid thickening in our vestibular systems (in our inner ear), deteriorating vision, lessened kinaesthetic awareness and proprioception, and reflexes slowed by physical changes to our nerve fibres. While it’s not possible to reverse or prevent all these natural ageing processes, your physiotherapist can work with you to improve your balance with exercises to strengthen weakened muscles and improve your proprioception (your awareness of the ground under your feet and its position in relation to you.) It’s never too late to start working on your balance, but there’s no such thing as too early either. We would love to work with you to improve your balance BEFORE a fall occurs.
Exercises might involve strengthening the feet by picking up marbles with your toes or scrunching a towel under your feet. (You could make this more practical by simply scrunching the rug that’s already right there and picking up laundry with your feet (although folding it might be tricky.) Proprioception work might involve standing on one foot with your eyes closed (with somebody there to catch you of course.) Or perhaps some comprehensive alignment work is called for. Balance tends to improve quickly with the right training. It’s possible you’ll discover joy and confidence in movement that you thought you’d lost years ago.
Stiffness and pain through our joints also tend to creep up on us as we age. But we can work with you to minimise the impact this will have on your life and activities. We can prescribe exercises to release stiffness and improve the range of motion in your joints. Various therapies like massage, dry needling, or even ultrasound might also be called for. While it’s tempting to just stop moving so much, especially if the pain is caused by osteoarthritis, we know that joints are meant to move and you’ll feel better for longer if you can keep activities going.
We can work with you to create a graded exercise programme starting from where you are now. Maybe you’ll discover new joys in movement and take up Tai Chi, or yoga, or become a gym junkie. Or perhaps you’ll just get your exercises done while you watch TV or listen to an audiobook. We’ll work with whatever suits you.
Don’t wait for a life-changing fall. Don’t give up dancing, gardening, golf, or any of the hobbies you finally got to embrace fully in retirement. Make an appointment today to invest in your mobility, balance, flexibility, and strength.
If you know someone who could benefit from this email, why not forward it to them? We’re passionate about educating you about your body and your health, and encourage you to share our advice with your loved ones. If you want to invest in your health as you age, give us a call at (08) 9203 7771 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team is always happy to hear from you.
Richardson, B. (2022) Why Does Balance Decline With Age? And How to Improve It? [Online] Available at https://www.fitwirr.com/workout/balance-and-aging/. Accessed on 16/10/2022.
University of Rochester Medical Center (n.d.) A Quick Look at Reflexes.[Online] Available at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=562. Accessed on 16/10/2022.
Statewide Home Health Care. (2021). Physiotherapy for Elderly at Home. [Online] Available at https://www.shhc.com.au/blog/statewide-home-health-care-blog/ageing/physiotherapy-for-elderly-at-home/#:~:text=Physiotherapy%20for%20Elderly%20at%20Home%201%20Improved%20Balance,of%20Physiotherapy%20for%20the%20Elderly%20at%20Home%20 Accessed on 16/10/2022