Some pain-a stubbed toe or muscle strain-comes and goes quickly. But many older adults have chronic pain: pain that bothers them most days of the week for 3 months or more. It’s more common as we age but doesn’t have to be a fact of life.
“Chronic pain can put you into a downward spiral,” says Paul Abbott, director of musculoskeletal strategies, Humana. “You become less active and more withdrawn, which can lead to weight gain, trouble sleeping, and other health problerms-and the pain becomes worse.”
Finding Relief
Pain relievers can help but may have side effects. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and aspirin may make high blood pressure, kidney problems, and other conditions worse.
Prescription pain relievers like opioids (codeine, morphine, and oxycodone) can cause constipation and, if misused, even addiction.
There’s no silver bullet, no one treatment that will take it all away.” Abbott says. “Look for different ways to manage your pain. Don’t give up until you find what helps you.”
Talk to your doctor about where it hurts and what helps. Ask about seeing a pain specialist. Abbott also suggests these pain-reducing tips:
Exercise
It helps you control your weight, boosts your mood, and relieves many types of chronic pain. Exercising with others is even better. You’ll get a lift, be distracted, and feel inspired to stay active.
Relaxation and Distraction
Try meditation, muscle relaxation exercises, and guided imagery . Use your brain to turn down the pain. Or treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a movie. Removing yourself from the place where you most often have pain can help take your mind off of it.
Other Medicines
Some pain may be helped by medicines that aren’t used for pain, such as seizure medicines and antidepressants.
Source: Humana Active Outlook magazine Fall 2013