Pain, pain, go away: Managing chronic pain
Older people suffer more pain than people in any other age group. And pain in the elderly is often under treated. As a result, many seniors choose to live with pain simply because they think nothing can be done. But you don’t have to let chronic pain disrupt your life. There are things that can be done to help you find the relief you need.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for at least a month longer than it normally would after an injury or illness. It can also be pain that goes on for months or years as a result of a chronic condition. The most common causes of chronic pain are disc disease in the lower back and arthritis in the joints. But always be sure you see your doctor to find out what’s causing the pain. Don’t just ignore it.
What living with pain can do
Pain is the top cause of disability in the United States. The longer you ignore pain, the harder it is to treat. It can cause fatigue, stress, and weakness. If you don’t treat pain, you can end up with even more discomfort. For example, you may try to compensate for pain in one joint by placing excessive stress on another joint.
Having chronic pain can also put you at risk for other diseases. It can raise your blood pressure, delay your recovery from an illness, or lead to depression.
Seeing the doctor
When you see your doctor about pain management, it’s important to come to the appointment prepared. Here are a few things to do before you go:
- Keep a pain journal and bring it to your doctor visit. Write down the things that cause pain and the things that make you feel better.
- Prepare a list of the medications you have already taken to lessen the pain, both over-the-counter and prescription, and take it with you. Also, have a list of all the other medications and supplements you are currently taking.
- Be ready to talk about how your pain is limiting your life and the things you would like to do when your pain gets better.
Treating chronic pain
Your doctor can take a number of approaches to treat pain. For example, he or she may suggest exercise or physical therapy because an unconditioned body is more vulnerable to pain. Your doctor might also prescribe pain medication, or refer you to a pain management specialist, orthopedist, or neurologist.
Acupuncture, relaxation techniques such as massage or meditation, or hypnosis may also help relieve pain or help you cope with it. Counseling or support groups may help you cope with stress or depression, which could be adding to your pain.
In general, the least invasive treatments are offered first.
Other options for treating chronic pain may include an injection of pain medication, a nerve block, or a spinal cord stimulator.
During treatment, your doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale from zero (no pain) to 10 (worst pain). This helps your doctor track your symptoms and see how you are responding to treatment. Not all pain can be eliminated, but doctors usually have various tools for managing pain and can help you enjoy a normal life.
Pain can be devastating physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you are thinking of harming yourself you should call 9-1-1 right away.