Chronic pain is a daily reality for three out of ten people in the US alone. It becomes more likely the older you are, often because of osteoarthritis, lower back pain, or a recurring injury. Learning to manage and minimize pain as we get older is as important as finding ways to treat it outright.
Pain is a fact of life. No one knows this better than our senior citizens, who have lived long enough to experience their fair share. But while aging does affect the body’s capacity to heal injuries and recover physically, there are still many ways you can minimize your pain while in your twilight years.
All pain is subjective, meaning what is and isn’t painful differs from person to person, and we each have our own thresholds and ways of feeling pain.
When repairing an injury or replacing a joint is no longer feasible or wise, finding ways to affect the pain itself becomes even more important. A single-minded approach focusing on the painful area can yield results. But a better one is to approach pain from all angles, through a long-term, multimodal plan. That is what pain management is all about.
Understanding Pain Management Tips for Seniors
Pain management is a medical specialization that usually involves tackling the problem of pain from different angles. Most pain clinics employ doctors from a wide variety of fields, such as neurology, osteopathy, psychiatry, and anesthesia. Rather than focus on a specific treatment, pain specialists work together to identify different treatments that can complement each other and fulfill the client’s needs.
Many pain specialists operate on the idea that pain can be exacerbated or attenuated through physical, emotional, and social approaches.
Developing a plan to strengthen the tissues around an arthritic joint can reduce the physical forces on the joint, allowing access to a wider array of movement and mobility, and improving a person’s quality of life. This is more involved than suggesting a gym membership – individualized physical and occupational therapy can help senior clients develop strength and pain resilience while taking their circumstances into account.
Addressing low mood and focusing on positive outcomes can reduce pain perception, improve pain tolerance, and boost confidence. Pain can rob you of many things and reduce your joy in life. That in itself can make pain worse. Tackling the mental effects of chronic pain can help us reduce the power it has over us.
Social factors such as cultural beliefs and stereotypes can stand in the way of effective treatment or result in social isolation and a greater pain sensation. On the other hand, certain cultural backgrounds and stereotypes correlate with better or worse pain tolerance under very specific circumstances.
Addressing pain physically, emotionally, and socially can help people reclaim their lives and lead a meaningful, and qualitative existence despite their pain. Let’s take a look at a few other specific options for tackling pain as we get older.
Appropriate Physical Activity
The benefits of resistance training and muscle building are underrated among the elderly and may contribute significantly to a better quality of life, lower levels of back pain, and greater physical resilience and potential for recovery after injury.
In addition to aerobic exercise, such as long-distance walking or swimming, to improve heart and lung health, older people would benefit immensely from accumulating greater muscle mass to protect their joints and spine and maintain the ability to perform physical tasks in their daily life.
A Balanced Diet
Any guide on pain management would be remiss not to include the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet, especially one with enough protein, healthy fat, and crucial vitamins and minerals. In addition to a variety of foods, some people might benefit from consulting a nutritionist or another qualified medical professional and inquiring about personal food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities are foods that may cause an adverse reaction, although not to the degree of an allergy. Some people have greater trouble digesting nightshade plants, fermented foods, or coffee. Other common food intolerances include gluten and lactose. Minimizing foods that you cannot tolerate very well may improve your digestion, and your overall quality of life.
Talk Therapy for Mental Health
The effects of mental health treatment on pain can be staggering. Whether it’s through addressing an underlying mental health issue, such as anxiety, or to talk to a mental health professional about how your pain has been affecting you lately, your state of mind and approach towards pain management can change the way pain is affecting you, for better and for worse.
Social and Emotional Support
Social isolation and loneliness can be physically crippling, as well as emotionally painful. Being part of a community, having personal and social goals, and spending more time with others – both friends and family – can have a positive effect on your pain. It’s important to set aside time to enjoy yourself, especially in the company of others. That, too, can be considered part of a treatment plan.
Medication plays a role in most pain management plans, whether to manage acute post-operative pain or a long-term pain problem. From over-the-counter painkillers to opioids, clinics will prescribe different medication depending on the contributing factors and other circumstances. Co-occurring health conditions or symptoms that are exacerbating your pain may be treated through medication, such as anti-convulsive drugs or antidepressants.
Medication Reviews, Regular Checkups, and Treatment Adherence
Managing a person’s pain is far from simple. There are hundreds of different causes for pain in the same area of the body. Be sure to regularly talk to your doctor or pain specialist, schedule follow-up appointments, and adhere to your treatment plan. Do not stop seeking treatment once the pain stops – that may mean that what you’ve been doing works, and that you should keep doing it, or that some other contributing factor has resolved itself in the meantime.
Figuring out which lever to pull to reduce a patient’s pain can be incredibly difficult. But by working with your doctors and being forthcoming, you can make it much easier for them to help you.
Chronic pain can be all-consuming. Collaborating with a dedicated pain clinic offers the convenience of a centralized treatment approach, versus coordinating with countless specialists yourself. Discover comprehensive, long-term pain management solutions available at PMIR on our website. Reach out to us today by dialing (877) 724-6349 or sending us a message.