older patient looking over musculoskeletal issue with doctor.

Musculoskeletal Problems in Older Patients

While advertisers deluge us with messages about how to keep ourselves young, pain-free and active, aging brings about unavoidable changes to all parts of the body, from skin and hair to bones and muscles. Though we try to pinpoint a date when aging begins, or at least when it becomes troublesome (50? 65? 70? 75?), the reality is that we have been aging all of our lives and troubling symptoms of aging manifest at a wide variety of ages. 

The skilled and experienced doctors at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine effectively treat a broad range of injuries and medical conditions in patients of all ages, some who suffer osteoarthritis in their 30s and some who suffer sports injuries in their 70s or 80s. Though advancing age takes a toll on muscles and bones that neither we nor our patients can ignore, our patients have good reason to trust us to improve their health, mobility and sense of well-being. 

Factors that Affect When and How Our Bodies Age

There are a number of factors that determine when age-related changes will occur and with what degree of intensity, including:

  • Heredity and genetics –Family history and our own genetic makeup play important roles in determining how well our bones and muscles will fare as we age.
  • Injuries and diseases — Accidents and/or disease conditions we may have suffered in the past or that we live with now may have a strong effect on how we age.
  • Lifestyle choices — Our diet, weight, exercise or lack of it, use or abuse of cigarettes, alcohol or drugs, and recreational activities will also impact the way we age.

Long Island Spine‚Äôs talented team is dedicated to improving the lives of older patients, whatever their history, by relieving their pain, increasing their mobility and range of motion, and helping them to improve their habits and lifestyle going forward. 

Musculoskeletal Changes Due to Aging

Bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and joints are all affected by the aging process.

Bones

Believe it or not, bone density begins to diminish in both men and women at about the age of 30. When women go into menopause, the bone weakening process accelerates, making bones more fragile and, therefore, more likely to fracture. In general, the older an individual gets, the more likely bones are to break. In elderly people with severe osteoporosis, small fractures can occur almost spontaneously during normal activities.

Vertebrae

Like all bones, vertebrae, the bones of the spine, are impacted by aging. Vertebrae are separated from one another by gel-like cushions known as discs, but as we age these discs lose fluid. When discs, as well as the vertebrae, become thinner, the spine compresses — the reason older people grow shorter as they age. Bone spurs may also develop, complicating the issue.

Cartilage, Connective Tissue, and Joints

Aging also thins cartilage and other connective tissue. When this happens, joints become less protected from stress and more liable to be damaged. Fluid that lubricates the joint tends to diminish as well, leading older individuals to feel like the Tin Man in need of oil.

As the surfaces of a joint move less smoothly, they scrape against one another, wearing away surfaces, resulting in osteoarthritis. The connective tissue within ligaments and tendons also becomes more rigid and brittle, and mineral deposits (calcifications) may occur. These factors combine to limit the range of motion in the affected joints.

Muscle Loss

Muscle loss, medically known as sarcopenia, also starts at an early age, although it does not usually become apparent until later in life. The amount of muscle tissue (the number and size of muscle fibers) actually decreases, leading to a gradual, though mild, loss of muscle mass and strength. Over time, muscles do not contract as efficiently as they once did, partially because of neurological changes.

Rehabilitative doctors like those at Long Island Spine are well aware of this, instructing patients, including elderly ones, to engage in muscle-strengthening exercise regimens. It is encouraging to know that exercise and physical therapy that strengthen muscles at joints can help to prevent the falls that are especially dangerous in older individuals.

Problems These Changes Cause 

It may seem depressing to enumerate the negative effects of aging on the body, but it is much easier to fight these negative effects if we understand them. At Long Island Spine, we are laser-focused on reducing pain and improving function without surgical intervention and have many innovative methods of treating age-related :

  • Bone fractures and the process of healing from them
  • Pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis
  • Recovery from joint replacement surgery
  • Stooped posture, altered gait
  • Bursitis, tendonitis, sprains and strains
  • Disc herniation or rupture
  • Sciatica, stenosis
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pinched nerves

How We Successfully Treat Age-Related Musculoskeletal Problems

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine we have a well-earned reputation for offering our older patients numerous viable options for pain relief and improved function, including:

  • Spinal epidural injections
  • Trigger point injections
  • Facet injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound
  • Acupuncture
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy

Aging, as they say, is not so bad when you consider the alternative. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, we are fully committed to making your years as productive, pleasurable, and pain-free as possible. Our belief is that longevity should be fun.