Walking is said to be the best form of exercise in any age and especially in advanced years but unfortunately twenty percent of the seniors complain of walking problems. This percentage goes up to fifty percent or more as we take the instance of those above 85. The reason behind this has been usually seen to be an underlying disease.
Common causes of walking problems
Walking problem suffered with old age are generally not the consequence of old age but a result of other co-morbidities due to old age. These underlying acute illnesses are the basic reasons that are behind walking problems in old age. Some of them are-
- Joint diseases like Arthritis
- Muscles or bones disease
- Complications caused by Orthopedic surgery
- Suffering from Low blood pressure on standing
- Parkinson’s disease
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Vision problems
- Falls due to old age
- Symptoms like stiffness, numbness, dizziness, pain or any other abnormal movement
Poor fitness levels, heart diseases, etc can also make older people to face walking problems. These underlying conditions need attention and improvement for a problem free walking experience.
Evaluating walking problems
The health care provider usually begins assessing the walking problem with a careful medical history in order to find out the exact cause of factors causing trouble with mobility. Indirect factors like Thyroid problems, heart disease, acute illness, vision problem or other diseases that can affect coordination, stability, posture or strength will also be enquired about by the healthcare practitioner. It is also important that you provide the practitioner details about the medications you are on. This will help him/her to check if the drug interactions or reactions are not the ones playing truant and causing walking problems.
In short the medical practitioner will undertake a complete physical examination to unearth any problem related to vision, blood pressure, joints, limbs, neck or spine. The healthcare provider may even recommend diagnostic tests and laboratory tests if your physical condition so required.
The medical practitioner may also conduct a couple of tests to evaluate balance, walking speed and motion that might contribute to the risk of falls.
Treatment of walking problems
Mostly the walking problem, one diagnosed correctly is only partially treatable, that is you might not be able to walk as earlier. The treatment focuses on improvement of the walking function. The result also depends on the severity and type of the condition causing the walking problem.
If the walking problem is caused by thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, B12 or Folic acid deficiency, or nerve inflammation medical therapy can help improve the walking problem. The practitioner may suggest a number of balance, leg resistance training and flexibility exercises to improve the condition.
Practitioners often recommend surgery for old age people suffering from Arthritis of the hip or knee or spinal disc problems. A number of older adults who have compressed discs in the lower back have shown considerable improvement in walking after surgery.
Use of additional support in the form of orthoses like “lifts” (corrective measure for different leg lengths) has also seen to help. It is also advisable for the seniors to wear well fitting walking shoes that have low heels and thin firm soles to ward away walking problems. A number of other mobility aids like canes or walkers can also help the seniors walk better.