Elderly individuals are at a higher risk for developing problems affecting their musculoskeletal system. This may include bone fractures, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, to name a few. Orthopedic specialists may treat such conditions through medication or surgery as needed. To prevent common conditions affecting joints, bones, muscles and ligaments, elderly individuals should take important measures.

Here are three common orthopedic disorders affecting the elderly, along with guidelines for preventing them:

1. Bone Fractures Due to Falls

Broken bones due to falls are common among the elderly. Hip fractures in elderly individuals are among the most widely treated injuries seen by orthopedic specialists. In many cases, the fracture is severe enough to require surgery. Fortunately, these injuries are often preventable.

To reduce the risk of fractured bones due to slips and falls, follow these guidelines:

  • Use an aid: If you're having trouble with balance or equilibrium, use a cane, walker or mobility chair, indoors and out. These aids will provide the stability you need to stay safe and prevent slips and falls.

  • Check your prescriptions: When medications cause drowsiness or difficulties with balance and coordination, inform your health care provider. Your doctor may need to change your prescription or adjust the dosage.

  • Be Careful Around Stairs: Falling down the stairs is a common accident among the elderly. This may lead to fractures or other serious injuries. Always use caution around stairs or steps.

    If stair-climbing has become difficult, consider installing a stair lift, which is a device that runs up and down the length of a stairway. After a rail is installed on the stairway, a chair may be attached that will "lift" the user up or down. The mechanical stair lift is often powered by rechargeable batteries.

  • Use bathtub aids: Falls in the bathtub or shower are common among the elderly. Installing safety grab bars in your bathtub or shower can help prevent a fall. The use of a transfer bench or bathtub stool may help as well. Also, place anti-skid mats on the floor of your tub or shower.

2. Osteoporosis

As a person ages, his or her bones become more fragile, often leading to pain, poor posture and even breakage. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones in such a way. Your physician may perform an evaluation to note whether you are at risk. A bone density test may be performed by your orthopedic specialist, and this is conducted through simple X-rays.

Although natural degeneration and genetics are major causes of osteoporosis, here are a few ways to make yourself less vulnerable and prevent brittle bones:

  • Watch your diet: Diet and nutrition play an important function in strengthening bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. For proper bone health, be sure you receive adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Milk and other diary products are good sources.

  • Keep your body in motion: To remain strong and healthy, your bones need exercise, just as your heart muscle does. Aim for at least a half hour of daily low-impact exercise. Walking helps strengthen the bones in your legs and heels, and may prevent or slow down the progression of osteoporosis.

    With your doctor's approval, incorporate strength-training exercises into your routine. Using dumbbells, try some biceps curls, which will help strengthen the bones in your upper arms. This exercise is performed by bending the elbows and pulling the hand weights upward and inward. Always stand with feet slightly apart and do not lock your knees.

3. Osteoarthritis

This disease affects cartridge and joints, often leading to inflammation and pain. Affected areas most commonly include the wrists, knees and back. In severe cases, the symptoms may be debilitating. The elderly are more susceptible, but there are ways to reduce the risk, including these pointers:

  • Maintain healthy weight: Excess weight places wear and tear on cartridge and joints.

  • Practice good ergonomics: Whether on the job or at home, avoid repetitive motion that places stress on joints. Also, equipment and furniture should be at a proper height, in order to avoid slouching. Do warm-ups and gentle stretching before any strenuous task.

  • Try yoga: Yoga is a good technique for strengthening cartridge and joints, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Train with an instructor who is experienced with teaching arthritic individuals. Gentle yoga methods with the use of props and meditation may be best.

Considerations and Precautions

Professional health care and monitoring from places like Town Center Orthopaedic Associates is crucial to your well-being during your senior years. This is especially important if you have underlying medical conditions that require treatment or medication. Before beginning any major lifestyle changes or exercise routine, consult with your physician or orthopedic specialist.