Older Americans are at a higher risk of falling says the NY Times, yet there are things you can do about the growing risk.
Falls in the elderly is a risk that most older folks are scared of or in danger of. A broken hip can be the end for someone in their 80’s and the solution in most doctors’ offices is usually walkers and canes, which are most likely to prevent on older person from having a devastating injury.
It is true that older people who have an injury like this may never recover, depending on their overall condition, since being laid up can cause other physical problems from the lack of mobility.
From a chiropractic mechanical perspective, there is more to the lack of balance that most doctors consider, mostly because they treat the lack of balance, rather than the gait issue that had led up to it.
What you are likely not to hear is that many who have gait-related issues are not recognized as such, and these types of problems develop over years. Myers, in his book Anatomy Trains, remarks that the center of gravity of older people moves up into the mid-back region. To understand why, you should read Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain which explains Myers point of view as well as the mechanics behind his observations.
From the standpoint of physics, those who have a higher center of gravity have more problems with balance. Since the pelvis acts like a shock absorber and a spring, those who are asymmetrically built are likely to have a distorted pelvis which decreases their ability to move as well as their balance. When this condition is seen years later, we see a stiffer person who does not use their pelvis effectively and is always stiff, a condition accepted as normal by those who have always been tight or inflexible. Those who are like this when young, are most likely to have balance problems as they age since the loss of core stability and the movement of the center of gravity higher affects balance and overall musculoskeletal health.
In the elderly person, a lifetime of shearing and asymmetrical forces will likely lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and other painful conditions. If we do as we always have done, which is ignore these problems and simply attribute them as a normal part of aging, we are harming rather than helping due to our ignorance. If degeneration is normal, why doesn’t everyone degenerate and age the same way? The fact is that we are all different in build and body style, and some of us may need our doctors to have a better understanding of body mechanics and the musculoskeletal system than they currently have.
The choice is to give them a walker or perhaps, work on the gait issue to improve their stride and their pelvic mobility which affects their balance, and then retrain it. The only limiting factor is the quality and condition of the joints of the hips and the spine.
A good place to start would be the feet with foot orthotics that are off the shelf. Most patients who have gait-related problems of asymmetry will feel better and more balanced with the inserts in their shoes. Most older folks respond well to gentle spinal manipulations and procedures such as myofascial release which are effective in improving spinal and pelvic motion and moving the center of gravity downward, which helps translation as they walk and improves their balance and gait.
While this may not solve all the problems of balance, if you begin early enough in life, you are more likely to have a better functioning core, less pain from distortion of the pelvis, and a reduced likelihood of falling, which in the elderly can lead to devastating injuries.
Read the NY Times article here. As you read this, consider our point of view which is more functional and preventative by improving function, rather than the idea of prevention by using a cane or a walker which is likely going to be necessary for some people with joint problems or pain.
A Tiny Stumble, a Life Upended