How Physiotherapy Can Promote Healthy Ageing
Physiotherapists specialise in understanding the human body and its movements. We often focus on a particular area, such as musculoskeletal (aches and pains), neurological (recovery after a stroke or Parkinson’s disease) or cardiovascular (after heart surgery or a heart attack). But as you get older, you often need help with all of the above, and some specific help with making sure you keep moving well as you get older.
Physical Changes Due to Ageing
Each season of life has its joys and frustrations. As you get older, you might enjoy spending more time with loved ones or on favourite hobbies. You might be able to contribute more to your community or offer wise advice to someone struggling with an issue you’ve faced yourself.
There are undeniable physical changes associated with ageing though, including reduced bone density and muscle strength, stiff joints, poorer coordination and an increase in body fat. Those underlying changes have effects on your general fitness, balance and mobility, increasing the risk of falls. A raft of illnesses are also more common in older people, which may make daily life more difficult and increase the temptation to be sedentary rather than active.
But don’t be disheartened – we can help keep you moving well and make the process of ageing easier. Research shows that physiotherapy helps older people maintain health, well-being, mobility and independence by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. It really is a case of move it or lose it!
Improve Your Joints
Arthritis is quite a common condition among older people, and the main types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis, and this was thought to be ‘wear and tear’, it is now thought to be the body trying extra hard to repair the affected joint. Your GP may prescribe medication to help with arthritis and may also recommend physiotherapy. Don’t think of this as an optional extra – it’s actually a core part of the treatment.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis, improving strength and flexibility, improving posture and balance and reducing pain and fatigue. Neurospace’s physios are skilled in assessing joint problems and prescribing exercises that suit you best. This could be a gym program, cycling or walking, strength training or even low-impact exercises in the water.
Improve Your Balance and Mobility
Balance, (or postural control as we like to call it) is a complex interplay of sensory system providing inputs to your brain, and then your brain responding with a specific action requiring strength, coordination and movement. This all happens in a split second to keep you upright whilst you are either moving or standing still.
As you get older, one or more of these systems can be working less effectively and this can lead to difficulties walking and getting around, a fear of falling and often unexpected trips or falls.
If you are concerned that your balance is getting worse, it is worth checking in with your GP and your physiotherapist. They can work together to rule out more serious causes, and your physio can design a program to help you improve your balance and mobility. Physiotherapists look at how well the different parts of your body work together. Then we train them to do better. We’ll tailor exercises to your particular areas of weakness, aiming to challenge your body enough to see improvements whilst still exercising safely. And we’re not just training your body; we’re training your brain too. It’s the command and control centre of your body, in charge of coordinating your movements. Your brain adapts to new situations. It’s always learning and changing through a process known as neuroplasticity.
You’re at an increased risk of falling as you get older. At least 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 falls once each year and sometimes more often. Falls can have big consequences including injuries and dented confidence that causes some people to withdraw from activities and become increasingly dependent on others. There’s strong, high-quality evidence from many studies to show that exercise can prevent falls, but the exercise needs to be challenging to your balance, of a sufficient dose, and also needs to be ongoing. This is where we can help get you started and keep you motivated.
Promote a healthy heart
As you get older, the walls of your blood vessels and arteries get stiffer, which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood around your body. This puts you at risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. As you exercise, your heart rate won’t increase as much as it used to. A healthy heart needs regular physical activity, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and not too much stress. We can help with the exercise!
Rehabilitation After Injury or Surgery
Some injuries such as fractures become more common with age, especially in women. The injured bone or joint is usually immobilised to protect it while it heals. Physiotherapy improves your recovery by helping you address the joint stiffness and muscle weakness caused by immobilisation. We can also help with specific exercises to reduce the incidence of fractures with people with osteoporosis.
Prevent and Manage Medical Conditions
Physiotherapy may help prevent and manage many common conditions that become more common as you age. That includes incontinence, heart disease, osteoarthritis, lung diseases and stroke. Physical activity also helps your mental health.
Healthy Ageing at Neurospace
Our Neurospace therapy team includes physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and massage therapists. We focus on treating people with complex issues and we understand both the process of ageing and its effect on other medical conditions you may be living with. We understand how important your physical capability is to your ongoing independence and quality of life as you age.
We assess all new patients carefully and then we’ll recommend a tailored program of treatment. Please make an appointment today to begin strengthening your body under our guidance.