Many senior citizens fail to report pain to a doctor because of a common misconception that pain is a natural part of aging. However, pain is a signal that something is wrong in the body and should be taken seriously.
The number of adults experiencing chronic pain has been on the rise over the last decade. Chronic pain may result from tight muscles, joint damage, arthritis, sciatica, and other conditions.
In a study conducted in 2010, researchers found that 34 percent of nursing home residents experiencing chronic pain did not have their condition detected by the treating physician, leading to their pain going unreported and undiagnosed. Even a decade ago, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reported that “the elderly are often either untreated or undertreated for pain.”
There are a few steps you can take to raise awareness of your own or another’s pain.
- Communication is key. Communicate with your doctor if you are experiencing pain. Ask about pain management options if your pain is chronic. If you are a caregiver, communicate with your loved one or patient and ask if they have any aches or pains, even if they think the pain is minor. It doesn’t have to mean a trip to the doctor, either; there are home remedies you could try, such as applying ice or heat to the painful area, which may alleviate the pain.
- Relax. If stress is a trigger for you of pain or inflammation in the body, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to try to relax. A hot bath or shower, meditation, a stroll outside in nice weather, or playing with a pet are all stress relievers that can help you to relax.
- Take medications as prescribed. Medication always should be taken as prescribed. Taking too much or too little of a prescription may make pain worse, or have unintended effects. Make sure you understand how to take your medications and ask your doctor or a pharmacist any questions you may have. If you are a caregiver, make sure you monitor your loved one or patient to ensure medications are taken correctly.
- Track your pain. If you are having difficulties describing your pain or pinning it down to a specific cause, you can try to track it for a period of time and then take the information to your doctor. Note when you have the pain, when it stops, and what you were doing at the time it began and ended. You may also want to note your diet in case something you’re eating is the cause of your pain, particularly if you’re experiencing gastric pain or headaches. The American Chronic Pain Association has a wealth of resources at their website for tracking and learning about pain management.
American Chronic Pain Association: https://theacpa.org