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Managing Chronic Pain in Seniors: Effective Relief Strategies

Managing Chronic Pain in Seniors: Effective Relief Strategies

We all experience physical pain and discomfort from time to time. According to the CDC, 20 percent of adults in the United States have chronic pain or pain lasting three months or longer. The good news is that a range of practical strategies can work together in a comprehensive plan to relieve chronic pain.

For seniors who struggle with chronic pain, setting some long-term health goals that focus on increasing mobility and strength and maintaining a healthy weight and sleep habits can be helpful. A mix of exercise and therapy techniques, diet, and medication can help meet these long-term health goals and result in significant health gains and pain relief.

At the Mission at Agua Fria, we aim to help every resident live well, including incorporating various approaches to managing chronic pain, promoting independence, and meeting long-term health goals. Keep reading for some helpful tips and techniques for dealing with chronic pain.

Consult With A Medical Professional

It’s always important to talk to your doctor when experiencing pain that doesn’t go away. Having a healthcare professional evaluate you and try to identify the cause of your chronic pain will help you develop a care plan together. Your care plan should be tailored to your health needs, conditions, and long-term goals. For instance, if your chronic pain results from arthritis, your doctor can prescribe appropriate medication, suggest low-impact exercises to help with flexibility and mobility, and even talk about assistive devices like compressive gloves or knee sleeves. 

Focus On Nutrition

Many times, chronic pain in our bodies comes with inflammation. Avoiding inflammatory foods and choosing a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation naturally without relying solely on medication. 

In general, try to avoid:  

  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates (e.g., white bread)
  • Processed meat (e.g., hot dogs, deli meat, etc.)
  • Fried foods 
  • Alcohol

Instead, focus on meals that contain:

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts (especially almonds and walnuts)
  • Berries 
  • Leafy greens (like kale and spinach)
  • Turmeric

A nutrient-rich diet can help reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy weight, essential for overall health and pain reduction. Extra weight can negatively affect mobility, making it harder to move around and contributing to joint pain. 

Keep It Moving

Although you might be tempted to take it easy and stop exercising when you’re having chronic pain, it’s important to stay as physically active as you can. Regular exercise has many benefits for chronic pain sufferers, including: 

  • Stronger muscles and better flexibility and mobility
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain, partly due to the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin
  • Reduced inflammation, especially in the joints
  • Better sleep, which is essential for your body to heal

Of course, you should never ignore pain that worsens or any new pain you experience. Consider low-impact activities like swimming, water aerobics, walking, yoga, and tai chi. Choosing activities that you enjoy will make you more likely to stay consistent.

Work With Physical And Occupational Therapists

Physical therapists are trained to evaluate the specific muscles and tissues causing chronic pain. Once they’ve established the source of pain, they use exercises and other methods (e.g., ice, heat, massage, etc.) to reduce pain, improve mobility, and increase strength.

Similarly, occupational therapists use targeted exercises to alleviate pain, but their focus is more on function and ensuring that their patients can better accomplish activities of daily living. Occupational therapists might also work with you on symptom management strategies like mindfulness practices, cognitive behavioral therapy, healthy stress management, nutrition education, relaxation techniques, and more to accomplish your goals. 

Manage Medications Appropriately

Although medication alone should not be relied upon to address chronic pain, it can play an important role in a comprehensive approach. Your healthcare provider may prescribe some of the following types of pain medication:

  • Acetaminophen is easily accessible in many over-the-counter medicines and is most often used for mild to moderate pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, can be helpful if you’re experiencing inflammation in your joints. If you have high blood pressure, however, you might not be able to take ibuprofen.
  • Opioids are only available with a doctor’s prescription because they may become habit-forming. For moderate to severe pain, however, this type of medication, which can include things like codeine, morphine, and oxycodone, can be very helpful in providing relief while you recover.

Depending on the type, source, and location of your chronic pain, healthcare providers sometimes prescribe antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, nerve blockers, anti-inflammatory creams, muscle relaxants, and medications specifically developed to treat certain conditions.

Try Alternative Therapies

According to the National Institute on Aging, there is a growing body of research that alternative therapies, when incorporated into a comprehensive medical care plan, can help with chronic pain. Not every technique is effective for every person, but many practitioners are finding pain relief through:

  • Acupuncture: Very thin needles stimulate different parts of the body and are often used to treat neck and lower back pain
  • Yoga: Guided stretching exercises help increase strength and flexibility, which are essential to mobility
  • Massage therapy: Targeted kneading of muscles and tissues can loosen tight muscles and increase range of motion
  • Chiropractic care: Professional manipulation of the spine can sometimes reduce neck and back pain as well as improve the range of motion in the joints
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Meditation, body, and breathing awareness and guided imagery can help improve sleep and decrease stress, anxiety, and pain while promoting healing

When you make the Mission at Agua Fria your home, you can access everything you need for health and wellness, including the tools you need to reach your long-term health goals. Delicious, nutritious meals, assistance with activities of daily living, a thriving social network, scheduled classes and activities, exercise classes tailored to meet all skill and mobility levels, a wellness center with physical and occupational therapists, cognitive therapy, help with medication management, and more. Contact us today to schedule a visit. We think you’ll love it here! This article shares effective strategies for managing chronic pain in seniors and setting long-term health goals for improved mobility and well-being.