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Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Complexities of Chronic Pain for Older Adults


Chronic pain poses a significant problem for many seniors.  Pain is incorrectly thought to be a natural or inevitable part of the aging process.  Consequently, it is often under-reported and under-treated. Too often seniors do not report their pain because they do not believe it can be treated.  Some worry that reporting it will lead to expensive testing, additional medications or a new diagnosis.  Others fail to report it when they are in denial or fearful about disease progression when a diagnosis is in place.  And then there are age-related conditions like hearing loss and dementia that make it more difficult to communicate or assess pain.  To complicate matters even further, studies indicate that the pain threshold increases with advanced aging so pain tolerance decreases with age.  Increases in pain sensitivity have been attributed to age-related anatomical, physiological and biochemical changes. 

Treating chronic pain in seniors requires understanding the special needs of seniors and the elderly. Older adults require special care because of multiple medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and other common ailments.  

Teaching seniors to self-manage their pain and understand pain treatment options is necessary to reduce or eliminate chronic pain.  Safe treatments for seniors are available and include:

·       Medications or Drug Therapy / Prescription and Nonprescription
·       Physical Therapy / Out-patient or Home Health
·       Occupational Therapy / Out-patient or Home Health
·       Chiropractic Treatment & Massage
·       Psychological Treatment for Depression & Anxiety
·       Alternative Therapies / Acupuncture
·       Mind-Body Therapies / Meditation, Biofeedback
·       Dietary Approaches / Nutritional Supplements
·       Pain Clinics

Seniors and the elderly suffering from chronic pain should see their doctor for a complete assessment to rule out underlying causes that can be treated or to learn how to manage their pain. 

Please note:  Alternative therapies are not always benign.  For example, nutritional supplements may interact with other medications you may be taking.  Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative approach and be sure to tell your doctors what alternative treatments you are using.