Managing Pain with Aging
While experiencing aches and pains here and there is a normal part of aging, and usually resolves quickly, within a day or two, sometimes pain may linger. Pain that occurs regularly for three or more months is known as chronic pain, which can disrupt your life and keep you from the things you enjoy. Knowing different strategies and methods for managing pain can help you reduce discomfort and preserve your independence.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, moving your muscles and joints when they feel sore or stiff can reduce pain. When they hurt, naturally you’ll want to keep them immobilized, but this can actually make things worse. The less you move, the more sore and stiff your joints will become. Start gently, trying not to force it to where it becomes very uncomfortable, but some light and simple stretches daily, starting in the morning and before bed each night, can help loosen your body and enhance flexibility. Enrolling in a yoga or tai chi class is a great way to stay limber slowly and safely.
Another strategy is to practice mindfulness. Chronic pain is naturally very upsetting to the mind, frustrating you and taking a toll on your mental health. Meditation and deep breathing, taking breaths deeply in and out can help relieve tension in your back, neck and shoulders. Relaxation exercises can help connect your mind and body and promote calmness and peacefulness, which many find helps with pain management.
Staying active and busy is an important part of life, and many seniors find comfort in having things to do all day, keeping themselves active, engaged, and part of the community and present in the lives of their loved ones. But it’s equally important to make sure you’re listening to your body. Take breaks when you’re feeling discomfort, and plan your activity level based on how you’re feeling and what you’re comfortably able to handle. Pushing yourself too far when you’re not feeling your best can end up hurting you in the long run, causing even more pain and taking you out of commission for longer than taking a break would have stopped you. If you need to, there’s nothing wrong with shortening your walk, taking a few minutes to stop and sit down, put off a project or activity until you’re feeling better, or ask others for help.
Another important thing to do is to be honest with your health care provider. While you may feel uncomfortable being frank and honest with them, admitting you’re in pain and need some help is not a sign of weakness. And besides, their job is to help you. Being forthright about the amount of pain that you’re in will allow your doctor to recommend some strategies or interventions to help. They can prescribe it based on your needs and your preferences, which could take the form of medications, or trying things like physical therapy, therapeutic massage, acupuncture or acupressure. You and your doctor can work together to try different strategies until you find something that works for you.