Back pain affects people of all ages, yet the pain for seniors isn’t usually as easy to relieve. Whether it’s osteoporosis, arthritis, shrinking padding between backbones or just the normal changes that come with aging, addressing the problem before it becomes debilitating is very important. Back pain in the elderly usually causes a decrease in function, much more so than in the younger population, so that they’re not able to perform basic tasks of daily living. Their pain also tends to be more chronic. Incorporating physical therapy occupational therapy, nursing and exercise physiology to ones routine can produce significant results for the aging population even before the onset of back pain.
Back Pain Management for Seniors
Geriatric patients are more likely to be homebound to begin with. Often they have home health care for different reasons. Home health care clinicians should evaluate their elderly patient for any back discomfort during their initial evaluation. AT Home Care, Virginia’s largest independent home health agency, counsels its elderly patients on exercise and diet that can aid in the recovery of other ailments just by giving them more ambulation and range of motion. Nutritional supplements such as vitamin D and calcium are recommended at 800 grams and 1200 grams a day respectively. Obesity can add to the degenerative wear and tear on the spine structure so diet is important from a weight perspective. There is a linear correlation with bone density and weight showing that those who are too thin are more likely to suffer from Osteoporosis. But bone density and bone quality are not the same.
Compression Fractures Ignored on 50% of X-Rays Shown to Doctors.
Vertebrae disc compression of more than 80% is identified as a fracture, but In a University of Washington study it was ignored on 50% of the x-rays shown to doctors who were looking at other organs with the spine in the background. Those who have a one fracture are 4X more likely to have another fracture. The spine has 24 discs and 77 joints which make it vulnerable for degenerative problems. Osteoporosis has reached epidemic proportions and has added to health care costs. Greater awareness of preventative measures will certainly help in the ill effects of the disease.
Recovery from Back Surgery
If a geriatric patient has back surgery, they are more likely to require longer home care services following spinal surgery. These patients may need a longer recovery due to a slower healing process, impaired cognitive skills, and decreased mobility. As life expectancy climbs, there is an increasing prevalence of elderly patients who sustain complex fractures to their upper cervical spine. These fractures can lead to increased morbidity and mortality. Home health nurses have a duty to evaluate the health of their patient with regard to nutrition and exercise when opening any medical case. Observing the patient in the home gives the home care giver a good insight into their daily routine and adjustments can be made right away.