How Physical Therapy Relieve Chronic Pain for the Elderly

Chronic pain is a common issue in Australia. One in 5 Australians aged 45 and over are living with persistent, ongoing pain. This pain can be disabling and stressful, making it hard for a person to work and do the things that they enjoy. GPs have found that more people are suffering from chronic pain, with a 67% increase in patient visits over the past 10 years. Moreover, many elderly often ignore the recommended treatment for chronic pain, thinking that this is a normal sign of ageing, and that just have to accept it.

Did you know that chronic pain can bother you for quite a long time, from a few months to many years?

Physiotherapy is a medical profession that prevents, treats, and manages movement and pain caused by disease or injury. Today we invite Mr YAO Chong, a physiotherapist from HEA Healthcare, to explain how physiotherapy can help the elderly relieve their pain.


Q: What are the causes of chronic pain in the elderly?

A: There are many reasons. Common ones include joint wear and tear, long-term muscle strain, incorrect sitting posture, and unintentional repetition of certain movements, which leads to the exacerbation of the injury. Of course, the elderly’s metabolism slows down with age and bone looseness will more or less indirectly lead to chronic pain. The recovery period of chronic pain can take a long time.


Q: Which method is used commonly to relieve pain for the elderly?

A: The treatments commonly used by physical therapists include massage, joint loosening, ultrasound therapy, dry needling, passive stretching, active stretching, nerve loosening, Morrigan therapy, McKenzie therapy, rehabilitation training, muscle strength training, bandage support, tendon weight-bearing therapy, etc.

We will adopt the best treatment method for the individual patient through consultation.


Q: The lower back (the lumbar spine) pain is more common among the elderly. How does physical therapy deal with this pain?

A: In most cases, physical therapists will relax the muscles in the lower back, relax the hip muscles, loosen the lumbar joints, and combine this with appropriate stretching exercises to restore the strength of the patient’s lower limbs.


Q: How does physical therapy relieve pain after joint replacement surgery?

A: For joint replacement surgery, it is recommended to follow the doctor and physical therapist’s advice, to exercise every day to prevent the stiffness of new joints and surrounding tissues. The main purpose of post-operative rehabilitation is to restore the range of motion of the joints. Maintain strength in other important muscles, as stiffness can indirectly cause pain and hinder future recovery.


Q: Many elderly people trust traditional Chinese medicine. As a physiotherapist with a Chinese background, do you incorporate any elements of traditional Chinese medicine into your treatment methods?

A: In fact, there is a big difference between physical therapists and traditional Chinese medicine in diagnosis, but there are still similarities in treatment. For example, massage techniques are similar. Physical therapy does not focus on acupoints (Xuewei 穴位)and directly treats symptomatic muscles and joints. The commonly used dry needling in sports medicine in Western medicine is similar to acupuncture, but the ultimate goal is to relieve pain, strengthen the body, and improve the quality of life of the elderly.


Q: There are still thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases every day. Many elderly people choose to stay at home. If people who sit or lie down for a long time have little back pain, can you recommend an exercise method suitable for the elderly at home?

A: We answer from three aspects: sitting, legs and walking.

Sitting: Do not sit for more than half an hour at a time, do not sit paralysed or nested in the sofa. Poor sitting posture could cause intervertebral disc compression and cause intervertebral disc herniation.

Legs: Try exercises such as: raise your legs high, lift your legs sideways, lift your legs back, slightly squat against the wall, twist your waist from side to side, swing your legs from side to side and stretch your neck and shoulders properly.

Walking: Continuing to walk is highly recommended. If you keep a social distance of 1.5 metres, infection possibility is often very low, so please do not worry too much about going out for a walk. Walking can also relieve a depressed mood.


We hope this has been helpful.


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