Chronic Pain and the Elderly
According to the National Institute of Health, the majority of elderly people deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. The percentage of incidences of chronic pain amongst the elderly is believed to be underreported, so it could be that MOST elderly people have daily chronic pain.
Many people accept chronic pain as a natural consequence of aging. Many elderly, such as those in nursing homes, have some degree of cognitive impairment that affects their ability to communicate and report the pain they are experiencing. Chronic pain significantly impacts a person’s daily activities and diminishes their ability to enjoy life. A number of conditions are responsible for chronic pain in the elderly. Some of the more common causes of such chronic pain include:
- Musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis and spine degeneration
- Neuropathic pain such as that caused by diabetes or herpes zoster
- Ischemic pain
- Pain attributable to cancer and the associated treatments
- Advanced heart disease
- Advanced lung disease
Chronic pain in the elderly can lead to depression, falls, sleep disturbances, anxiety, isolation, and functional impairment. Managing and treating pain in an elderly person is quite different than addressing the needs of a young person would be. An older person is more likely to have other health issues which must be taken into account. These other health issues may require medications that can impact a doctor’s treatment recommendations for chronic pain. Also, the efficacy of various treatments may be diminished due to other medications they’re taking, and there is a risk of more serious adverse reactions to drugs in the elderly.
When you visit a pain specialist to address chronic pain, the first thing the doctor will do is evaluate your pain. This evaluation also includes an assessment of your ability to carry out daily activities and your functional status to determine your level of independence. This evaluation may help the doctor diagnose the cause of your pain. Even if the doctor cannot pinpoint the reason for your pain, be assured that we know your pain is real. Often, with older adults, the exact cause cannot be determined. However, your pain can still be treated.
Using the information gathered during their evaluation, the doctor will prepare a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your pain. Treatment may include medications and therapy, such as physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Education for you and your caregiver is an essential element of the treatment plan, as well. The medications your doctor recommends may include opioids, non-opioids, pain modulating drugs, topical medications, and other drugs. The medications may be prescription or over-the-counter or a combination of the two.
The doctors at Jersey Premier Pain specialize in pain management. Pain should not dominate your life. Let us help you manage your pain so that you can live life to the fullest. Contact us at 201-386-8800 to schedule an appointment and get some much-needed relief.