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Productive healthy ageing and MSK health

Posted on 9th January 2018 by

Last month, Public Health England published new guidance, entitled Productive healthy ageing and musculoskeletal (MSK) health.

Over the last few decades, life expectancy has been steadily increasing, with the ONS estimating that by 2041, there will be an 3.2 million people aged 85 years and older in the UK.

The report highlights that older people have an abundance of skills, knowledge and experiences that benefits the wider community greatly, however, the opportunity to utilise these resources is dependent on good health as we age.

Challenge the view that retirement is about sitting more and moving less.

As life expectancy rises, we must promote the concept of productive healthy ageing. This involves many pillars including; financial security, resilience, social activities and physical health.

Productive healthy ageing

Physical Health 

MSK conditions are problems of the bones, joints, muscles and spine, and are a common cause of severe long term pain and physical disability. There are 3 groups of MSK conditions:

  • inflammatory conditions, for example rheumatoid arthritis
  • conditions of MSK pain, for example osteoarthritis, back pain
  • osteoporosis and fragility fractures, for example fracture after fall from standing height

The older a person is, the more likely they are to experience chronic diseases and disabilities such as poor MSK health.

MSK conditions have a massive impact on society.

  • Lower back and neck pain were the leading causes of disability in England from 1990 to 2016.
  • Estimated levels of MSK conditions in England for 2012 also found that 18% and 11% of people aged 45 years and above have knee and hip osteoarthritis, respectively.
  • An estimated 17% of all ages have back pain.
  • Fractures, which are often a consequence of falls, are one of the most serious MSK problems seen in the older population.

There are many risk factors that can increase people’s susceptibility to MSK problems, including age, being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, and poor health habits such as smoking.

The two risk factors that often coincide are increasing age and reduced physical activity. As people age, they take part in less physical activity

In the 19 to 24 year age group 76.6% of people are physically active compared to 24.7% in individuals aged over 85 years.

Living for longer does not mean a lifetime of pain and ill-health. There are steps that we can take throughout our lives to maintain healthy productive lives, reduce the risk of developing MSK conditions and better manage our health.

Our Top Tips

As a physiotherapy, health & well being clinic, a significant number of the people we see are in the older age range. We see people with MSK conditions such as osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis. We see people concerned about their reducing mobility or with balance problems that mean they are starting to loose their independence. More frequently, we are now seeing people who are really investing in their physical health – listening to the messages the Government are putting out and taking action to reduce the risk and impact of MSK conditions.

Physical activity in adults

So, what are the best ways of tackling physical health as we age?

  1. Stay as active as possible. Simply walking is fantastic, you can make it social or build it into functional tasks such as shopping. Set yourself some walking goals, to increase your distance gradually. Find a variety of physical activities that you enjoy – swimming, specialist classes, yoga or Pilates are all great ideas. It doesn’t matter what you do, the most important thing is that it’s fun and enjoyable, then you’re more likely to make it part of your routine!
  2. Sit less. Don’t be tempted to sit more. Activities such as gardening, going out shopping, looking after grandchildren and cleaning are all wonderful ways to stay active.
  3. Be health conscious. If you’re invited to check up’s at your G.P., don’t put them off. Keeping on top of your general health and managing any conditions you may have, will help with your physical health. You can also have check up’s or health MOT’s through schemes such as Health Works locally. Try and eat well, sleep well and have time for relaxation too!
  4. Keep on top of aches and pains. If you do pick up an injury or an MSK condition such as arthritis is giving you pain or limiting you, seek help. Seeing someone sooner rather than later will help make sure you can stay physically active and recover quickly, so you can continue enjoying life. “Use it or loose it” is a very apt saying as we age. If you can’t keep active due to pain or an injury, you can very quickly loose muscle strength, balance, fitness and flexibility. So it’s really important to be pro-active.

How we help 

We run a range of specialist services for the older residents of Chandlers Ford and surrounding areas of Hampshire. Our core service of physiotherapy is there for you if you want help and relief from pain or an injury. It’s also valuable if you have a diagnosis of an MSK condition such as arthritis or osteoporosis, and want to know more about the condition and be pro-active about managing it.

We also run weekly Positive Steps classes, which are specifically designed exercise classes for older people. They are a relaxed, sociable and fun way to exercise in a supportive environment, led by Clinicians who understand your exact needs and goals. You can try your first class for free, so why not get together with a friend or partner and give it a try!

We also have an extensive Pilates timetable. Our mat classes are ‘Clinical Pilates’, so adapted specifically to work on optimising physical health and run by Clinicians who understand the ageing process and the best way to exercise.

Wherever you find yourself, we’re here to help and support you. Not sure if and how we can help? Just pop in or give us a call and we can have a chat!