Managing Pain with Aging
Experiencing occasional aches and pains is a normal part of aging, but discomfort usually resolves relatively quickly. You may be sore for a day or two but then get back to your regular activities. When pain lingers for three months or more, it may be considered chronic pain. Chronic pain can disrupt seniors’ lives and keep them from doing things they enjoy.
September is Pain Awareness Month. Knowing different strategies for managing pain can reduce discomfort and allow you to maintain greater independence. There are many ways to cope with pain and keep it from becoming too disruptive.
Move Your Body When your muscles or joints ache, it can be tempting to want to minimize your physical activity, but that can actually make things worse. The less you move, the sorer and stiffer joints can become. Start each morning off with some gentle stretches to loosen your body up and enhance flexibility. If you start to feel tight during the day, you can stop and do a few stretches too. Exercise releases endorphins which can help reduce pain. Yoga can also be a beneficial form of exercise to help with pain management. It is easy on your joints, encourages balance and flexibility, and enables you to really focus on how you’re moving your body, and how you feel.
Calm Your Mind Chronic pain can be frustrating and take a toll on your mental health. Try incorporating meditation and deep breathing into your daily routine. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out which can relieve tension in your neck, back, and shoulders. Practicing relaxation exercises helps connect the body and mind and give you a greater sense of peace and calmness. Many people find that this helps with pain management.
Listen to Your Body While it is important to stay active, you also want to listen to what your body is telling you and when it is time to take a break. Don’t push yourself too hard. Adjust your plans and level of activity based on how you are feeling and what you are able to safely and comfortably handle. You may need to shorten your walk, sit down for a few minutes to rest, postpone a project until the next day, or ask others for help.
Talk to Your Doctor Be honest with your doctor about any pain you are experiencing and how it is impacting your quality of life. Your doctor may be able to recommend pain management strategies based on your needs and preferences. This could include physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, hot/cold compresses, or prescription medications. Try different things until you find what works best for you.
Distract Yourself The more you focus on your pain, the worse it can feel. Continuing to attend activities and get-togethers, spending time with friends, laughing, and doing things you enjoy can be positive distractions. Stress and tension can be reduced by putting attention on other things. This is not to say you should ignore your pain, but taking your mind off of it for a while may help.