Can Chiropractic Help Improve Gait In Elderly?

Gait is the process by which a movement occurs through periods of unloading and loading of our limbs. Gait includes all forms of locomotion from; running, hopping, skipping and cycling. However, walking is the most prominently used form of gait and provides us with independence for many of our activities of daily living. A normal gait requires the body to co-ordinate with other organs such as our ears, eyes, brain, muscles and sensory nerves. When one of these areas are lacking, a difficulty in performing a normal gait may arise (Holt, 2014).

There is a variety of research concerning traumatic injuries in the elderly population. Ages range from 55 – 80 years of age (Campbell-Furtick, Moore, Overton, et al., 2016). A leading cause of injury in the geriatric population is falling (Kravosky, Lamontagne, Feldman, Levin, 2014).

According to the New Zealand ACC statistics of the year 2016, people aged 65 years and older, 138 304 new claims were made. Consequences from these falls may lead to restrictions in their activities of daily living, consequently a loss of independence (Mignardot, Deschamps, Barrey, et al., 2014).

The most common symptoms associated with gait and balance problems are difficulty walking, trouble with balance and unsteadiness. (Holt, 2014). These gait and balance problems can come temporarily through trauma, injury, inflammation and pain. (Holt, 2014).

According to recent research, fall risks are a concern for morbidity and mortality in the elderly. (Holt, 2011) Falls play a very significant role in in the causes of death, injury and loss of quality of life. (Holt, 2011). Falls account for more than 80% of injury related hospital expenses in the adults over 65 years old (Holt, 2011). Every year, one third of the community elderly’s have more than one fall. Falls happen when an individual is unable to maintain the center of gravity within the base of support provided by their feet. Many risks factors has been identified which increases the risk of falls in elderly patients. These risk factors include increase in age, lower limb disorders and balance disorders. If there is a combination of these risks present, the chance of falling may increase to up to 80% per year (Holt, 2012).

So how can chiropractic help?

Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on improving neuromuscular dysfunction. Chiropractors look after the nervous system and the spine by correcting Vertebral Subluxations. Vertebral Subluxation is described as an interference with the normal function of the nervous system. These vertebral subluxations can come from any aspect of an individual’s life such as stress, trauma, or chemical imbalances. Vertebral Subluxations are the underlying causes of many health problems including gait and balance (McKay, Jenkins, 2016). Vertebral subluxation is defined as a joint in the spine that is not moving correctly, and that is negatively impacting health and well-being. Research has shown that an adjustment to the spine increases joint function and contraction of muscles around the area, giving strength and stability to the spine. Ultimately chiropractic adjustments can help the elderly be less prone to injury due to falls.

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1) Campbell-Furtick, M., Moore, B. J., Overton, T. L., Phillips, J. L., Simon, K. J., Gandhi, R. R., … &Shafi, S. (2016). Post-trauma mortality increase at age 60: a cutoff for defining elderly. The American Journal of Surgery, 212(4), 781-785.
2) Holt, K. (2014). Effectiveness of chiropractic care in improving sensorimotor function associated with falls risk in older people (Doctoral dissertation, Research Space at Auckland).
3) Holt, K., Haavik, H., &Elley, C. R. (2012). The effects of manual therapy on balance and falls: A systemic review. Journal of manipulative and physical therapeutics, 35(3), 327-234. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.01.007
4) Holt, K. R., Noone, P. L., Short, K., Elley, C. R., &Haavik, H. (2011). Fall risk profile and quality-of-life status of older chiropractic patients. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 34(2), 78-87.
5) Kirtley, C. (2005). Clinical gait analysis: theory and practice. Elsevier Health Sciences.
6) Krasovsky, T., Lamontagne, A., Feldmaman, A. G., & Levin, M. F. (2014). Effects of walking speed on gait stability and interlimb coordination in younger and older adults. PubMed, 39(1):378-85. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.08.011
7) Mckay, T. J., Jenkins, K. B. (2016). Chiropractor, Massage therapy, Laser therapy. Retrieved from http://www.spineguys.com/why_chiropractic/subluxations.asp
8) Mignardot, J. B., Deschamps, T., Barrey, E., Auvinet, B., Berrut, G., Cornu, C. &Dedecker, L. (2014). Gait disturbances as specific predictive markers of the first fall onset in elderly people: a two-year prospective observational study. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 22.

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