Do you have chronic pain? Find options to help.

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

You’ve probably heard the popular saying, “with age comes wisdom.” But have you heard the much less popular saying, “with age comes chronic aches and pains that won’t go away?”  

It should come as no surprise that chronic pain increases as you get older. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study found that nearly 53% of seniors over the age of 65 experience persistent pain. Despite the number of older people who have chronic pain, their pain often gets undertreated. One study found that pain is undertreated in about 21% of older adults in nursing homes. What can you do about chronic pain? Let’s take a look.  

What is chronic pain?  

Chronic pain is ongoing pain that lasts at least three to six months. There are many issues that can cause chronic pain in older adults, including: 

  • Problems with the bones, joints, muscles and tendons. They can be caused by injuries, arthritis or other conditions. 
  • Pain that is caused by damage to the nerves. It can be caused by things like diabetes, shingles or cancer treatment. 
  • Pain caused by poor blood flow. 
  • Cancer can cause pain in many different ways, including by pressing on nerves, bones or other organs. 
  • Some other medical conditions, such as heart disease, can also cause chronic pain.

How can you treat chronic pain?

First, with any chronic pain treatment, you need to talk to your doctor.With ilumed providers, patients can see their doctor quarterly, rather than the standard annual checkup. These more frequent check-ins allow them to stay on top of issues and have longer conversations about problems like chronic pain.  

Your doctor can help you assess what’s causing your pain and develop a plan to treat it. Here are a few ways you can make connecting with your doctor easier and more productive:  

  • Be open about your pain. Pain is subjective, and only you know how you feel. Don’t be afraid to speak up and explain your experience as honestly as you can, without self-judgement or embarrassment.  
  • Get on top of the pain. Talk with your doctor before and after a procedure to discuss what you can do about any pain issues that might arise.  
  • Bring support. If you feel like you’re not connecting with your doctor, ask a second person to come to your appointment to share what they’ve noticed and to help you express what’s happening.  
  • Get a second opinion. If you feel like your pain isn’t being properly addressed, talking to a doctor who is a pain specialist may help you get the support you need.  

While there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for chronic pain, there are several options you and your doctor can explore, including:

  • Medications to help relieve pain, such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids and antidepressants. 
  • Physical therapy to help to improve your range of motion and strength, which can help reduce pain. 
  • Exercise, which can also help reduce pain and improve your overall health. 
  • Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and yoga, to manage your pain, relieve stress and improve your mood. 

The best treatment will depend on the cause of your pain and your individual circumstances.

Coping with chronic pain

In addition to medical treatment, there are a number of things you can do to help you cope with chronic pain. These include

  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Eating a healthy diet 
  • Avoiding smoking and limiting your alcohol consumption  
  • Managing stress 
  • Staying active 
  • Joining a support group

Managing your pain medication 

As you get older, the rise of healthcare issues and the number of medications you take to combat those issues can make taking pain medication more challenging. Opioids are the most commonly prescribed pain medication for older patients.  

However, over-prescription of opioid medications is one of the factors that created the opioid crisis. Your safety is an important part of your care. Here are a few ways you can help avoid issues with opioids:  

  • Before you start using opioids, understand the risks, and be aware of any factors that may increase your chances of an overdose.  
  • Consider other pain-management options, including using non-opioid medications like ibuprofen, physical therapy, exercise and therapy.  
  • Keep your doctor up to date on your opioid use, and let them know if you have any problems or concerns.

Get help managing your chronic-pain issues

Along with your doctors, ilumed is here to help you better manage your chronic-pain issues. Our case and disease managers can help keep you on track during your treatment, help with lifestyle changes and connect you to local resources. ilumed’s outreach managers are also here to help schedule appointments and rides, which can take a big weight off you when you’re not feeling well. ilumed’s team is here to listen to you, so you feel seen, heard and understood. With ilumed, you have a team to help you receive the compassionate care you need.  

Chronic pain is a big issue among older adults, but you can get help. Understanding the causes, talking with your doctor, exploring treatment options and creating coping strategies can all help. With the right support and tools, you can help manage your chronic pain issues and lead a better life. Discover even more health resources in ilumed’s content library

Previous Article Next Article