Acceptance of lower back pain in older populations; is there a better way?

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Acceptance of lower back pain in older populations; is there a better way?

Back pain in the older population is often accepted as normal, or perhaps arthritis or a part of the aging process. Medicare does cover treatment for lower back problems however, due to the limited coverage for chiropractic in both regular Medicare as well as many Medicare plus choice (part C) plans, often seniors may due to affordability or just their own value system may just stick with traditional physical rehabilitation which does not enjoy the high satisfaction that chiropractic care has due to its overall effectiveness.

After visiting a number of ineffective practitioners, many people decide that they will just live with the problem. Others, as a recent study (1) suggests may just live with the pain. In a recent study that compared by phone those who are younger vs. those who are older in their attitudes towards lower back pain and receiving treatment for the condition, they found that younger people were more likely to seek treatment for chronic lower back problems. These treatments may have included bed rest, spinal manipulation, heat/cold treatments, electrical stimulation, and massage therapy. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, strong narcotics, and antidepressants.

Statistically speaking; Chronic LBP prevalence in older adults was significantly higher than the 21-to-44-year age group (12.3% vs. 6.5%, p < .001). Older adults were more disabled, had longer symptom duration, and were less depressed. Chronic LBP care seeking in older adults was significantly lower than the 45-to-64-year age group (80.6% vs. 88.6%, p = .02).

While these statistics in this study clearly show older patients avoiding care for back pain when compared to older adults, there are many people who, as they are aging are suffering needlessly. Another concern is that as a person experiences more pain, they tend to do less and this affects not only their mechanical health but also their cardiovascular health as well.

Helping an older adult find the right care for them that makes the best use of their healthcare resources can pay huge dividends in the overall health of the person.

As we age, it is quite common that the elderly as a group experience not only lower back pain, but many of the precursors of it such as reduced core strength, a loss of flexibility that results from it and shorter walking strides which can reduce balance and possibly leave them more susceptible to falling. Perhaps, this is why we see so many elderly people using walkers today, since the walker is preferable to a broken hip which can be devastating.

Taking better care of ones frame as we age has many benefits including

1. Less overall pain.

2. More energy.

3. A better sense of vitality.

4. Improved balance.

5. A healthier cardiovascular system that works more efficiently.

Chiropractic, while it may not be fully covered, may be no more costly than the many pain medications that are used to cover up the problem, while those problems are likely getting worse during the aging process because the mechanical basis for the pain is ignored. Seniors need to consider chiropractic first when they have lower back pain for the most satisfying treatment experience, and to avoid the complications that many drugs are likely to cause with long term use.

Recently, we had a patient that had not been seen in years that had spent thousands on medical tests, pain management and ineffective solutions for lower and mid back pain and rib pain. Her final decision was made when her doctors told her that a herniated disc in her mid back is likely the reason she hurt and that surgery is difficult and risky. Within a few short visits, she slept through the night with little or no pain and continues to improve. She had confessed that she returned out of desperation to find out that her Medicare + C plan did not cover the way they said it would, however, after getting the dramatic relief she experienced in our office, she has felt it worthwhile to pay for the care out of her pocket, to avoid the other interventions that were not only ineffective but also risky.

Chiropractic approaches vary widely. Our offices use Myofascial Release Treatment, Graston Technique, manipulation, active evaluation and rehabilitation to help you get out of pain fast. Waiting and allowing your problem to become more chronic and painful is damaging to your health and you deserve better.

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1. J Aging Health. 2010 Dec;22(8):1213-34. doi: 10.1177/0898264310374111. Epub 2010 Jul 23.