Chiropractic and Massage Most Popular Choices for Seniors

Many older adults with back pain hesitate to depend on pain medications for managing their symptoms. Although drugs can provide temporary relief, they can carry a number of unwanted side effects and may even complicate treatment plans for aging seniors with multiple health problems. Epidural steroid injections, a common treatment for lower back pain, can significantly increase the risk of spinal fractures, which raises particular concerns for the elderly.

Seniors searching for non-drug, non-invasive methods of managing pain with aging are increasingly turning to chiropractic care and massage therapy. A new study evaluated healthcare utilization among women between the ages of 60-65 years old in Australia.

Among those seeking treatments for low-back pain, massage therapy and chiropractic were the top two most popular choices, above care from physiotherapists, general practitioners, and other health providers. A total of 44.1% of women had visited a massage therapist and 37% had visited a chiropractor. Women frequently utilized complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies alongside conventional medical care. Additional research is needed to determine CAM utilization among more elder seniors.

Although back pain is a widespread problem among aging adults, many seniors do not seek treatment for their condition. Research shows that while older adults are more likely to experience back pain than younger adults, they are significantly less likely to receive treatment. It's unclear why this discrepancy exists, but it's possible that seniors may simply resign themselves to a life of pain.

Aging doesn't have to be synonymous with pain. Chiropractic care is effective for a number of conditions associated with aging like spinal degeneration, scoliosis, arthritis, disc herniation, and hip dysfunction. Chiropractors use gentle, low-force techniques to alleviate back pain, neck pain, and other symptoms in older adults. In addition to spinal adjustments, chiropractors frequently employ exercise therapies and massage to improve mobility and decrease disability in seniors.

Primary reference:

Murthy V, et al. Consultations with complementary and alternative medicine practitioners amongst wider care options for back pain: a study of a nationally representative sample of 1,310 Australian women aged 60-65 years. Clinical Rheumatology 2013.

Secondary references:

Dougherty P, Hawk C, Weiner DK, Gleberzon B, Andrew K, Killinger L. The role of chiropractic care in older adults. Chiropractic and Manual Therapies 2012; 20:3 doi:10.1186/2045-709X-20-3.

Hondras MA, Long CR, Cao Y, Rowell RM, Meeker WC. A randomized controlledtrial comparing 2 types of spinal manipulation and minimal conservative medical care for adults 55 years and older with subacute or chronic low back pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapy 2009; 32:330-343.

Learman K, Showalter C, O'Halloran B, Cook C. Thrust and nonthrust manipulation for older adults with low back pain: an evaluation of pain and disability. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2013; 36(5): 284-291, doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2013.05.007.