As we age, chronic pain becomes more common and can have a significant impact on our quality of life. According to The British Medical Journal, around 43% of adults in the UK experience chronic pain, and this number increases to over 62% for adults over the age of 75. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three months and is often the result of conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and neuropathic pain.
While chronic pain can be challenging to manage, there are strategies that can help people cope with their symptoms and improve their quality of life. In this blog post, we will discuss some of these strategies and provide tips for managing chronic pain as you age.
Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
Physical activity is an important part of managing chronic pain, as it can help improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Regular exercise can also help reduce inflammation and manage symptoms such as stiffness and fatigue. To make exercise more sustainable, choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle and preferences. This could include walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, or yoga, for example.
Regardless of the type of exercise, slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. This will help to prevent injury and make exercise more manageable and enjoyable. Most importantly, listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. If you experience pain or discomfort during exercise, stop and speak with a healthcare provider.
In addition to regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce chronic pain. Excess weight puts additional strain on joints and can worsen chronic pain conditions such as arthritis. Losing weight can help reduce stress on the joints and improve mobility.
Manage stress and emotions
Chronic pain can often be accompanied by stress, anxiety, and depression, which can make symptoms worse. Managing these emotions and reducing stress can help improve chronic pain management. Strategies such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and improve relaxation. Support groups can also be a valuable resource for managing chronic pain and the emotional challenges that come with it.
Use pain management techniques
In addition to medication, there are other pain management techniques that can help seniors cope with chronic pain. These techniques include heat and cold therapy, massage, and physical therapy. Heat therapy involves applying heat to the affected area, which can help to reduce pain and stiffness. This can be done using a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or a warm bath or shower. It can be particularly helpful for chronic pain conditions that involve muscle tension or stiffness, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.
Conversely, cold therapy involves applying cold to the affected area using a cold compress or even a bag of frozen vegetables, to reduce swelling and numb the pain. It is important to note that heat and cold therapy should not be used on the same area of the body at the same time, as this can cause damage to the skin and tissues.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for managing chronic pain, as it allows the body to repair and regenerate. Sleep also helps regulate pain levels, so getting enough rest can help reduce pain intensity. It's important to establish a regular sleep routine and create a sleep-friendly environment, such as a dark, quiet, and cool room or investing in comfortable bedding, such as a supportive mattress and pillow to improve sleep quality.
Use assistive devices
Assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, can help people with chronic pain maintain their independence and mobility. These devices can help reduce stress on painful joints and improve safety. It's important to choose the right assistive device for your needs and use it properly to avoid injuries.
Use pain medication wisely
Pain medication can play a huge role in chronic pain management, but it's important to use it wisely. Overuse of pain medication can lead to dependency and negative side effects, such as stomach upset and constipation. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions and only take pain medication as prescribed. It's also important to communicate with your doctor about any changes in your pain levels and symptoms.
Try complementary therapies
Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, and herbal remedies, can be helpful for managing chronic pain. These therapies can help improve pain relief and reduce the need for medication. It's important to talk to your doctor before trying any complementary therapies, as some may interact with medications or have other risks.
Adjust your daily routine
Making adjustments to your daily routine can also help people cope with chronic pain. For example, you can try to avoid activities that worsen your pain, such as standing or sitting for long periods of time. You can also try to break up activities into smaller, more manageable tasks to avoid overdoing it. Additionally, you can try to pace yourself and take regular breaks to rest and relax.
Manage pain with a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can also help manage chronic pain. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can provide essential nutrients and help reduce inflammation. Avoiding processed and refined foods, as well as foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats, can also help improve chronic pain management.
Keep up with your medical care
Finally, it's important to keep up with your medical care and follow your doctor's recommendations for managing chronic pain. Regular check-ups, tests, and treatments can help monitor your pain levels and make any necessary adjustments to your pain management plan. It's also important to communicate with your doctor about any changes in your symptoms or concerns you may have.