elderly physio

Physiological changes in elderly

Aging is a natural process, so it is advisable to understand and prepare for the inevitable aging of your body’s organ systems and tissues. The main causes of disability in old age are musculoskeletal conditions. National studies estimate that nearly 90% of the world’s population is affected by spinal complaints at least once during their lifetime. One-third of the patients visit their GP with musculoskeletal pains. Most of these symptoms might pass spontaneously or due to special treatments. However, the problems associated with progressive lesions may recur. This is why it is very important to restore and maintain the spinal condition and, last but not least, to prevent the reoccurrence of spinal complaints.


The leading symptoms of musculoskeletal complaints are pain and disability. Usually it is the back, neck and proximal muscles of the shoulders and hips which are affected. When the pain becomes more severe and lasts longer and longer it can result in muscle stiffness causing back and lower back pain, knee pain, neck pain and frozen shoulders.

It is not surprising that stiff muscles tend to be associated with old age. Movements––especially quick movements––are accompanied by pain or spasm. Patients tend to avoid physical activity, but unfortunately this is a bad reaction. Inactivity elicits the chronic pain and it gets worse over time. So keep moving, stay active and ask for our therapists’ advice.

Forever young: make no bones about it!

Our skeleton is a metabolically active organ that undergoes continuous remodelling during life. This bone remodelling is necessary in order to maintain the structural integrity of the skeleton and to facilitate its metabolic functions as a storehouse of calcium and phosphorus. Bone metabolism is affected by your age, physical activity, food factors, vitamin D, various hormones, such as sex hormones, growth hormone, thyroid function, adrenal function, and other factors. Two main types of cells are responsible for bone metabolism: osteoclasts (which break down the existing bone structure) and osteoblasts (which form new bone). These two closely related processes, external impacts and stress influence the metabolism.

Women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men. Estrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause around the age of 50–60, which can cause bone loss. This is why the chance of developing osteoporosis and broken bones increases as women reach menopause.

Inflammatory rheumatic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis in old age) also occur in the elderly. Due to aging the immune response gets reduced, and therefore it may be more difficult to detect non-specific symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Polymyalgia rheumatica (sometimes referred to as PMR) is a rheumatic disorder associated with moderate-to-severe musculoskeletal pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulder, and hip area, which responds well to medication.

Acute illnesses in the elderly population––particularly in elderly people who are largely immobile or remain bedridden––threaten with the reduction of physical stamina and faster muscle wasting. The decrease in mobility may endanger the individual’s independent life, therefore the mobilization should begin as soon as possible in case of elderly patients.

Treatment options

The curative treatment requires a coordinated team work. Before any treatment begins our physiotherapist will do a physical examination to assess your flexibility, strength and range of movement. Then they will devise a plan of care tailored to you as an individual. Physiotherapy is very hands-on and may include physiotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy or pilates. We are confident that when you are treated by a physiotherapist, osteopath or a massage professional at Physio-Medicine you will see an increase in mobility, flexibility, improved functions and muscle strength after the first few sessions. Home exercises are also important to restore flexibility, build strength and improve co-ordination and balance, as well as recommending a workout routine to help prevent future problems.

Physio-Medicine’s therapies can help anyone who is starting to see the effects of life’s wear and tear on their bodies. It can also treat or prevent physical problems that might be brewing as a result of years of poor posture or sitting badly.

Remember, you are never too young or old to take care of your bones. If your healthcare provider has not talked to you about your bone health, it is time for you to book an appointment at Physio-Medicine!