Can Osteopathy help dementia? A patient story.

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Health

Dementia is a diagnosis that many fear, and understandably so. Watching a loved one slowly fade away is a heart-breaking experience that can leave you feeling helpless. But what if there was something that could be done to slow the progression of dementia?

As osteopaths, we can treat dementia patients and have seen remarkable changes, not only in their general state of health but also in the slowing of their dementia progression.

Our Associate Osteopath, Steve, has recently treated Tom, a patient who was diagnosed with dementia and was taking the standard recommended medication. While this medication can temporarily alleviate or stabilise some symptoms of dementia, Tom’s carer was concerned that his symptoms were getting worse.

When Tom came to see Steve, it was clear from the start that he wasn’t moving well, had difficulty breathing, and had little flexibility.

It took more than four weekly treatments before we started to see significant signs of improvement. But after the fourth week, Tom relaxed, became more aware of his surroundings, and started communicating more. His carer even noticed significant changes and improvements in Tom’s behaviour and memory, which she recorded in a weekly report.

One of the things that Steve did to help stimulate Tom’s brain was to use a pack of playing cards with striking images on the front. This not only motivated him to remember events but also helped to increase his general awareness of his surroundings and willingness to take an active part in his life again.

It’s important to take steps to prevent the onset of dementia, such as becoming physically active. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends exercises that can help keep the brain active and healthy. Don’t let dementia be a diagnosis that you fear, take action and seek help.

Dementia not only affects the quality of life of the patient, but it also deeply affects family members. As an osteopath, I have found that involving the patient’s family in the treatment process is immensely beneficial and increases the chances for a positive outcome. That’s why I teach the caregivers several home exercises as part of their daily upkeep routine for the patient. These exercises focus on increasing flexibility and improving breathing.

An example of the “home exercise set” that usually takes about 10 minutes to complete includes abdominal massage, gentle tapping around the sinus area, pulling the legs for 30 seconds, massaging the feet, and deep breathing exercises to help rebalance the body.

Tom’s carer reported on the progress after five weeks of treatment, stating that Tom was very elated and calm, watching TV with good concentration and taking an interest in the daily news at dinner. However, the carer noticed some forgetfulness and confusion in Tom in the following weeks, along with pain and stress due to external factors like a family member’s accident.

As osteopaths, we are here to emotionally support the patient’s process, and our treatment protocols should reflect that fact. In Tom’s case, Steve focused on stabilising his situation until the pain and stress subsided. We also took into consideration the correlation between stress and dementia. Stress can cause the hippocampus to degenerate, making memories harder to recall. Therefore, we tried to minimise stress and its effects on Tom’s health as much as possible.

Involving the patient’s family in the treatment process and addressing external factors like stress can significantly impact the outcome of treatment for dementia. It’s important to be mindful of these factors and tailor our treatment plans accordingly.