Under normal circumstances, pain subsides once an illness runs its course or an injury heals. However, chronic pain can last for months or even years after the known trigger has healed completely. According to medical experts, chronic pain is defined as lasting for three months or more and is prevalent in older adults due to age-related issues and other degenerative conditions.
Seniors experiencing the condition face various physical and psychological challenges, which significantly affect their overall well-being. For that reason, managing chronic pain is an important step towards improving their health and quality of life.
Common Causes of Chronic Pain
Before we get into management strategies, it is essential to learn about the causes of chronic pain in older adults:
- Arthritis – There are two primary types of arthritis prevalent in older individuals, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The health conditions are a common cause of chronic pain and are characterised by joint inflammation and degeneration.
- Neuropathy – Neuropathy is another common cause of pain in older adults. It is a condition where damage occurs to nerves, leading to dysfunction and abnormal nerve signals. Neuropathy can result from diabetes, infections and other underlying medical conditions.
- Fibromyalgia – Fibromyalgia refers to a condition where the brain processes pain in an overly sensitive way. That leads to an increased pain response to stimuli that an individual wouldn’t normally feel a thing. Researchers have never fully understood how fibromyalgia occurs; however, a combination of environmental, genetic and neurological factors are widely believed to be the causes.
- Cancer – Cancer is another significant contributor to chronic pain. The condition can affect nearby tissues, nerves and organs, which can cause varying pain levels depending on the type, stage and location. Cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and surgery, can also cause pain and discomfort.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Besides the causes, it is essential to understand the diverse range of chronic pain symptoms individuals are likely to encounter. The condition manifests in various ways, including:
An individual suffering from chronic pain can experience stiffness in the affected area. The symptom is particularly common in arthritis-related chronic pain since joint inflammation results in a sensation of stiffness and general discomfort. This symptom can make movement difficult and uncomfortable.
Fatigue is another chronic pain symptom that occurs due to reduced energy levels from constant discomfort. Living with persistent pain can be physically and mentally exhausting, which often leads to chronic fatigue in individuals suffering from the condition.
With chronic pain comes decreased mobility. It can be relatively challenging to move or engage in any physical activity if any slight movement triggers pain. Decreased mobility can also result in muscle weakness and, in more severe cases, loss of function.
Individuals suffering from chronic pain often have trouble sleeping as the condition disrupts sleep patterns. Most people find it challenging to fall or stay asleep if lying down or changing positions results in pain. For this reason, chronic pain can lead to insomnia and exacerbate fatigue with time.
Dealing with persistent pain can take a toll on an individual’s overall emotional well-being. As a result, it is common for people with chronic pain to experience mood problems, including anxiety, irritability and depression.
Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain Management
As we can see, chronic pain symptoms can affect the overall well-being of seniors, which leads to poor quality of life. As a result, it is important to embrace effective strategies for managing chronic pain to help these individuals achieve enhanced relief and a renewed sense of wellness.
Although there are a few options for treating chronic pain, holistic strategies have consistently proven effective. These holistic approaches rely on natural pain relief strategies, including herbal pain relief, physical therapy, heat and cold therapy and lifestyle modifications. These natural chronic pain remedies are effective as they empower individuals to take charge of their well-being.
Physical Therapy and Exercises
Physical therapy is a natural pain relief strategy focusing on gentle exercises to strengthen muscles, enhance joint flexibility and reduce stiffness. Individuals suffering from chronic pain can benefit from a tailored physical therapy program targeting their pain issues, offering a personalised experience and increasing effectiveness.
The mind-body technique involves harnessing the power of the mind-body connection and using it to transform pain perception for individuals with chronic pain issues. The natural pain relief strategy utilises techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation and mindfulness practices to promote a sense of calm and control and shift the mind away from pain sensations.
Complementary therapies are strategies that complement conventional chronic pain management strategies. These include:
- Massage therapies – to ease muscle tension and promote relaxation
- Acupuncture – stimulate a specific part of the body to improve energy flow and relieve pain
- Chiropractic care – adjusts the spine to relieve pain by enhancing nervous system function
- Herbal pain relief – uses natural supplements in herbs to manage inflammation and pain
Heat and Cold Therapy
The heat and cold strategy is a natural pain relief technique that has been around for centuries. Heat can be used to improve blood flow and soothe sore muscles and joints. In contrast, cold effectively reduces inflammation, numbs pain and minimises swelling.
Lifestyle modification is a proactive approach to pain relief. It involves adjusting lifestyle to manage chronic pain. For instance, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule enhances the body’s natural healing mechanism. Similarly, eating a balanced diet helps keep the body nourished and maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on joints, minimising the risk of arthritis.
Managing chronic pain in older adults is crucial to improving their overall health and quality of life. While there are plenty of strategies, taking a holistic approach and utilising natural pain relief remedies is an effective way to address the multifaceted nature of the condition. For older adults dealing with chronic pain, having support is crucial to their well-being. A live-in caregiver will provide assistance with daily activities, including medication management and implementing holistic approach techniques. Contact Veritas Care today for a complete care assessment in relation to support for older adults struggling with chronic pain.