The musculoskeletal system includes the bones, cartilages, ligaments, joints, muscles, and other connective tissues that make the body’s structure and help it move. As you can imagine, this network is incredibly important to a person’s overall health, wellness, and stability. With time and age, these bones, muscles, and tissues can deteriorate or succumb to regular wear and tear. Furthermore, we become more susceptible to injury, trauma, and common diseases as we get older.
These conditions can affect any part of the musculoskeletal system, including:
Today we are going to take a closer look at some of the most common diseases of the musculoskeletal system that happen with aging. Before we do that, let’s go over some chronic disease facts and statistics to help you understand how common these conditions are for older adults:
- 85 percent of adults over the age of 65 will have at least one chronic condition
- 68 percent of adults in this group have two or more chronic diseases
- 31 percent of adults 65+ have arthritis
Although all age groups are at risk of musculoskeletal conditions, older adults are more susceptible to these painful and disabling disorders.
Chronic Diseases in Adults Over 65
Chronic diseases are challenging for numerous reasons. Not only can disease impact a person’s overall quality of life, but it can also affect your ability to perform everyday activities. The musculoskeletal system supports the body’s weight and allows the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, tissues, and bones to work cohesively. When any part of this system becomes compromised, it could result in debilitating pain.
The most common diseases of the musculoskeletal system for older adults include:
- Back and neck disorders
- Spondylosis (arthritis of the neck)
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Low back strain
Causes of the Most Common Types of Diseases
By 2050, authorities estimate there will be three times as many Americans over the age of 85. With this increase in the older population, we only expect to see the number of common diseases increase as well. While the leading causes of death among older adults are cancer and cardiovascular disease, other significant causes of illness include musculoskeletal conditions.
It is so critical to pay attention to the body and take note of any changes. Some of the risk factors of musculoskeletal diseases include:
- Inadequate physical exercise
- Family history
In addition to the above, there are a handful of actions that may contribute to your chance of developing a common disease as an older adult:
- Repetitive motions
- Heavy lifting
- Improper lifting
- Poor posture
- Sitting at a computer all-day
Remember, you are not doomed to a life of “broken” body and inflexible joints. You can get back to fluid, forward movement. It will take work, but as orthopedists and injury specialists, we have seen and helped thousands of patients improve their bodies to live a life in motion.
Symptoms of Common Diseases in Old Age
Diagnosing common diseases of the musculoskeletal system will look different for each person. If you are experiencing pain, redness, swelling, or any other type of discomfort, make an appointment with a physician right away. Some of the most common symptoms that affect seniors include:
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic or recurrent pain
- Stiff joints
- Consistent, dull aches
Often, the symptoms are persistent and made worse by even the simplest activities, such as walking or sitting.
Treatment Options for Older Adults
Treating chronic musculoskeletal conditions will look different for everyone and depends on a host of factors. For older adults, treatment often comes in the form of pain management, noninvasive procedures, and surgical intervention.
It is imperative to focus on delaying deterioration and address any concerns as they arise. Some at-home and alternative ways to improve your quality of life and complement a treatment plan include:
- Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet
- Physical therapy
- Maintain a healthy weight
Preventing Common Diseases As We Age
It is critical to pay attention to your body and take note of any changes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that many of the common diseases older adults face today are preventable. To decrease your chance of being diagnosed with a crippling illness or condition in old age, consider the following tips:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Exercise regularly to build and maintain strength
- Practice proper posture to avoid back pain and deterioration
- Avoid lifting with your back (use your legs)
- Early detection is key
- Stop smoking
Life expectancy is much higher, but the prevalence of common diseases is cause for concern. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition like facet joint arthritis and need help managing the pain, contact your primary provider or request an appointment with OSA.
We can’t stop the natural aging process, but there are plenty of safe and effective ways to experiment with to increase your quality of life. Work with your care team to create a tailored plan that includes at-home, alternative, therapeutic, and surgical options that will help you get the pain and discomfort from these common diseases under control.
It’s time to get your life back.