Chronic Pain Management for Seniors

doctor holds out a bottle of pills

Pain-relief medication is one way to manage chronic pain in seniors

Seniors deal with a lot of medical conditions as they age. They shouldn’t also have to live with aches and pains. If your loved one is suffering from pain, there are ways to manage and relieve it. While pain is a common side effect of many illnesses and conditions, it can be treated.

Many seniors believe that pain is a normal, unavoidable part of aging, so they don’t bother mentioning it to their care providers. If you notice your elderly loved one seems to be uncomfortable, don’t let them suffer. Notify their doctor or the nurse on call immediately so your loved one can get some relief.

Common Causes of Pain in Seniors

It helps to know what’s causing your loved one’s discomfort, because treatment will often depend on the trigger. Here are some conditions that can cause pain:

Treating Pain in Seniors

It’s heartening to note that just 16-27% of seniors in long-term care don’t receive adequate pain care, as opposed to 47-80% of seniors living at home. Of course, even that statistic is too high, and every effort should be made to relieve your loved one’s pain.

If your loved one is reporting chronic pain, their doctor should conduct an extensive evaluation to find the cause. Some questions he may ask are:

  • Where does it hurt?
  • When did the pain start?
  • Describe the pain: is it sharp, dull, burning, intermittent, constant?
  • At what time of day does the pain come?
  • Does the pain come after eating?
  • Will using a heating pad, ice pack or changing your position relieve the pain?
  • Will anything make the pain worse?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?

Once the doctor has determined the cause of the pain, he will determine the best course of treatment. Sometimes the patient may need to try a few different options before finding the one that will provide the most comfort. Don’t give up during that period  of trial and error; your loved one deserves to live without pain!

Common Medical and Non-Medical Methods of Pain Relief

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: These drugs commonly include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). They’re not dangerous to take long term, but high doses of Tylenol can damage the liver. In addition, ibuprofen is often not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
  • Opioid pain relievers: These are strong prescription drugs, such as Percocet, for treating severe pain. Doctors most often prescribe them after surgery. The major risk with opioids is the risk of addiction. Seniors are especially susceptible to addiction from prescribed drugs, since their body mass is often lower. However, if the pain is particularly severe, opioids may still be the best option.
  • Acupuncture: Popular among alternative medicine practitioners, acupuncture uses tiny needles to relieve pain from specific parts of the body. Acupressure is a similar practice, but involves pressure instead of needles.
  • Massage therapy: Getting a good massage from a certified massage therapist can release muscle tension and relieve pain.
  • Hypnosis: This is a very effective method of pain relief and stress reduction in one. It uses focused attention to help manage chronic pain.

Try combining medical and non-medical pain relief methods. Using more than one form of treatment may maximize each one’s efficacy and hopefully help your elderly loved one become completely pain-free.


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