As we get older our body’s ability to adapt to the stress and strain of everyday activities can affect people to a varying degree. Factors such as birth deformities, age, lifestyle (e.g. smoking, alcohol, inactivity), as well as some medications can make us more susceptible to certain musculoskeletal conditions. If you are concerned about your bone, muscle or joint health, speak to your healthcare practitioner (GP, Chartered Physiotherapist, Nurse, Consultant).
They can give you specific advice, tailored to your individual concerns and needs. Early diagnosis is important for the best treatment and results. X- Rays, bone density (DXA), CT, and MRI scans are examples of painless imaging techniques that may be used when examining the tissues of your musculoskeletal system.
The word sarcopenia describes a progressive decline in muscle mass and strength, which leads to frailty and loss of function. Generally speaking, after the age of 50 we naturally lose about 1% of our muscle mass per year, particularly if we are inactive. Depending on our initial muscle reserves, these small losses can go mostly unnoticed, but over time they can accumulate to around 30% muscle loss by the time we reach our eighties. Sarcopenia can lead to a loss of independence as it increases the risk of falls and fractures. It is also associated with poorer disease outcomes. Efforts to maintain muscle mass as we age are important in the prevention of sarcopenia. Inactivity resulting from the pain of conditions such as arthritis can lead to loss of mobility, and therefore an increased risk of sarcopenia.
Scoliosis arises from an abnormal curve of the spine to the left, to the right or both (S-shaped). The curve can be in the upper or lower part of the spine. The angle of the curve determines the severity and potential for complications. Lordosis arises from a forward curvature of the lumbar spine, while Kyphosis arises from a backward curvature of the thoracic spine. To read more, visit Scoliosis Ireland.
Just as the padding on the brakes of a car or bicycle can wear away with time or heavy use, the protective padding (cartilage) in our joints can also get worn away, resulting in osteoarthritis. It is the most common chronic condition affecting the joints and the symptoms usually develop progressively over years. Symptoms include joint pain with stiffness after periods of rest and/or swelling after periods of activity. To read more, visit Arthritis Ireland.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the body fights against itself and is known as an ‘auto-immune’ disorder. The joint lining becomes inflamed and damaged, which reduces the shock absorption ability of the joint. This leads to changes within the joint often resulting in deformity, which can be disabling. Damage to the musculoskeletal system can be managed with rehabilitation exercises or medication but, in some cases, surgery may be necessary to achieve the best outcome. To read more, visit Arthritis Ireland.
Osteoporosis is a disease resulting from a loss of bone tissue. As bones become ‘porous’ or less dense, they weaken, which increases the risk of fractures (broken bones), even following a minor bump or fall. Quite often, osteoporosis is not diagnosed until a fracture occurs. The most common site for a fracture to occur is the hip, wrist or spine. At present, approximately 300,000 people in Ireland have osteoporosis with one in two women and one in four men over 50 years of age predicted to develop a fracture in their lifetime. Although older females are most at risk, osteoporosis can affect both genders and all age groups. To read more, visit the Irish Osteoporosis Society.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation have a useful tool to quickly test your risk: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/iof-one-minute-osteoporosis-risk-test
Additional conditions that increase the risk of osteoporosis:
Bone marrow disorders e.g. Multiple Myeloma
Being underweight e.g. Anorexia
Hypogonadism in males
Impaired mobility (preventing regular activity) e.g. Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons
Liver or kidney disease
Physiological stress from excessive exercise with insufficient recovery
Surgical resection of small intestine
Use of certain medications e.g. Steroids, some Chemotherapies, Warfarin.