Most healthcare providers and chiropractic practitioners are often asked if chiropractic adjustments are safe for elderly patients since chronic musculoskeletal conditions like backache, neck pain and other ailments are frequently common in elderly patients as compared to young adults. Moreover, interventional or pharmacological therapies are often not the first choice due to high risk of complications and co-morbid medical conditions in elderly patients leaving lesser options for management and cure.
Chiropractic care is the holistic method of wellness that is generally considered safe and is directed at improving the overall health and well-being in individuals of all age groups, young children, pregnant mothers and elderly patients.
The most common concern and misconception reported with chiropractic adjustments in elderly populations is the higher risk of vertebra-basilar strokes with cervical neck manipulations. However, research report published by JD. Cassidy suggested that within a period of 9 years (from 1993 to 2002) only 818 cases of VBA stroke were reported per 100 million individuals per year which indicates the overall risk of stroke is very rare with chiropractic care. Moreover, statistical analysis suggested that chiropractic therapy does not pose any additional risk of stroke in patients above 45; as opposed to a higher incidence of VBA stroke cases reported in patients after visit to primary care physicians.
Various research studies suggest that the risk of life threatening complications with chiropractic manipulations is almost equivalent to the risk of anaphylactic reaction with ingestion of aspirin. Other common complications include vertebral fracture and risk of bleeding in some susceptible patients if therapy is attempted in inexperienced hands.
Chiropractic adjustments are more cost effective and rewarding than most pharmacological and surgical interventions. All elderly patients who are at risk of developing chronic renal or liver disease due to long term consumption of pain killers and analgesics for the management of chronic backache should employ chiropractic care for promising results. Moreover, all the patients who are not likely candidates of surgery due to the critical nature of surgery or uncontrolled co-morbid medical conditions that interfere with general anesthesia fitness can benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Other indications are long term management of headache and vascular disorders, non-surgical management of spinal disc herniation, migraine headaches, respiratory disorders, and the management of coordination and balance issues.
A research study published in the scientific journal The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, by Donald R. Noll discussed the effects of Osteopathic manipulative treatment in elderly patients (mean age above 65 years) and a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (with forced vital capacity of 70% and lower). All patients underwent 7 standardized sessions of Osteopathic manipulative treatment with each therapy session lasting 20 minutes. After the end of treatment session, almost 82% patients who underwent chiropractic therapy reported improvement in breathing symptoms with statistically better profiles of forced expiratory flow, mid-expiratory phase, vital capacity and airway resistance. No significant complications were reported in any patient.
Cheryl Hawk presented another research study that was published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine that was conducted on elderly patients to decrease the risk of falls. This study was small scaled and conducted on only 10 patients with mean age of 60 years or above in whom the coordination and balance was poor (marked by frequent history of falls). All patients were subjected to 16 sessions of chiropractic spinal manipulation and assessed on Berg Balance Scale (BBS). At the end of therapy, most of the patients reported improvement of symptoms and a BBS score of less than 45 (before therapy almost all the patients had a BBS score of greater than 45), indicating marked improvement of symptoms.
Chiropractic adjustments are generally safe in elderly patients; however, it is primarily indicated to speak to your primary chiropractor for a preliminary assessment of your medication condition and overall bone health. The most common contraindications for chiropractic adjustments include elderly patients with advanced osteoporosis or altered bone mineral density, patients with history of bone tumors or signs of metastatic bone diseases, and patients with uncontrolled diabetes.