We are an ageing population. Worldwide, people are living longer. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by 2030, 1 in 6 people will be 60 years or over. Also, the number of persons aged 80 or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million. (1) As we all know, with ageing often comes new health issues.
Our elders offer so much to society. Wisdom and experience mean they contribute to their families and communities in many ways. Older age is also an opportunity for people to pursue passions that they perhaps were not able to explore when they were younger. Yet the extent of these opportunities and contributions depends heavily on one factor: health.
Complex health conditions
Older people often develop many health issues that need to be treated together. There may be hearing loss, cataracts, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and dementia. For many of our elders, schedules become impacted by medical appointments, tests and trips to the pharmacy.
Holistic approach needed
In Western medicine, a doctor formulates a disease diagnosis and a treatment plan by identifying signs and symptoms. This approach can be practical when dealing with a single disease. However, there are more challenges when treating health conditions in ageing patients. A holistic approach to health assessment and intervention is a crucial principle of East Asian Medicine that is particularly pertinent to ageing. Instead of focusing on and treating individual symptoms, East Asian Medicine examines the whole body, its overall health condition, and its interactions with the environment.
A balancing act
According to East Asian Medicine, illnesses are fundamentally due to the disturbance of the dynamic balance between yin and yang and the overall energy flow in the body caused by external or internal factors. When yin and yang are in a state of balance, the body is healthy. When the balance is disturbed, the body becomes unhealthy. Yin and yang levels and energy levels decline gradually during ageing. The balance is vulnerable, and there is no escaping the fact that we are mortal beings. The body will eventually change to an unhealthy or diseased state. East Asian Medicine focuses on the balance of yin and yang and helps increases energy flow.
Three ways acupuncture and East Asian Medicine can help older patients
There are many ways East Asian Medicine can help older patients. Three core issues are examined below:
1. Pain relief
Studies (2) (3) (4) have shown that acupuncture is highly effective at treating chronic pain conditions. The WHO has recognised acupuncture as an effective treatment for such conditions as:
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Post-operative pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Acupuncture has been proven to be a powerful tool in addressing the inflammation common in arthritis and many other chronic health conditions. The treatments relieve the pain, discomfort, and swelling often accompanying the disease.
2. Nutrition and digestion
Another common health challenge for older patients relates to digestion issues. Some digestive disorders supported by acupuncture and other East Asian Medicine treatments include nausea, diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting, gastritis, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Compromised nutrition can be another source of concern for older patients. Sometimes appetite can be affected by other health issues. A lifetime of poor dietary choices can catch up with us later. For others, it could result from a medical condition or the side effects of a particular medication.
East Asian Medicine can be an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve their nutrition and dietary habits. Herbal remedies are available to address deficiencies or allergies that could impact health.
3. Mental health
Sadly, many older people suffer from mental health issues. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is evident as people become older, sicker, and, often, more isolated. A level of distress can also arise when physical discomfort is combined with emotional fear and worry about how that discomfort will affect a person’s life. Acupuncture works well for this type of distress because it reduces pain while calming the mind and boosting mood. The release of endorphins, the ‘happy hormones’, are at play here. Treatment recognises that the body and mind work together and that emotions can physically affect the body. In channelling the Qi or energy, acupuncture can help older patients to relax and achieve more emotional balance.
Acupuncture can also help seniors who have insomnia, which can also lead to depression and anxiety. Acupuncture may provide a sedative effect and lead to better sleep.
How Ondol Clinic can help?
At Ondol Clinic, we treat many older patients with excellent results. Our holistic approach includes acupuncture, massage, dietary advice and herbal remedies. When we ask what they like best about our treatments, our older patients often simply say it makes them feel better. We know that our treatments make a big difference in relieving anxiety and depression, reducing pain and improving mood among older adults.
If you or an elder that you care about believe we could help, we would love to see you at Ondol Clinic. To book an appointment, click here or call (07) 3371 0100.
1 World Health Organization 2022. Ageing and Health, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health
2 MacPherson H, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, et al. The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: a meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain. Pain. 2017;158(5):784-793.
3 Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, et al. Noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(7):514-530.
4 Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: update of an individual patient data meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain. 2018;19(5):455-474.