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Seniors and Chronic Pain

September is Pain Awareness Month. Whether it stems from joint or back pain, headaches, or arthritis, chronic pain affects more than 116 million Americans — touching the lives of more people in the United States than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. While this type of persistent pain is a major health issue in the U.S., few doctors have the training they need to effectively treat patients who experience it.

Chronic pain can be debilitating for people of all ages and is particularly challenging for seniors. Left untreated, chronic pain can cause serious health problems including loss of appetite and sleep, decreased mobility, anxiety, social isolation, and depression. To successfully manage and control its effects and symptoms, seniors with chronic pain require careful, continuing attention and treatment.

Here are a few tips for treating and managing pain:

  • Get the care you need. Find a doctor who is board certified in pain management.
  • Be cautious about prescription pain medications that can lead to further injury.
  • Try meditation, yoga, and walking. Having a strong mind and body can help to reduce pain.
  • Look into interventional therapies that treat the underlying cause of pain.
  • Manage expectations. While long-term management is unlikely to completely resolve chronic pain, it can help patients regain control of their lives and reduce suffering.
  • Combat isolation by keeping loved ones informed and sharing thoughts and feelings with others.
  • Build a support system of people who have experienced pain and understand it.

A Message from Dr. Marco
Dr. Noah Marco, Chief Medical Officer
For people suffering from chronic pain, effective communication with a knowledgeable doctor is an essential part of getting appropriate care. Make the most of visits with your doctor by coming prepared with a list of current medications (both over-the-counter and prescriptions). If the doctor you are seeing did not order recent medical tests (blood, x-rays, CT, MRI, etc), ask the office before the appointment if they need you to provide a copy of recent test results. Write notes that will help you provide your doctor with a comprehensive description of how your pain affects you and what it limits you from doing. Basic needed information is the location, intensity, and quality of the pain. Include details like what helps to relieve pain and what makes it worse. That includes non-medical interventions (like heat, ice, or changes in position), and to what level the pain medications reduce your pain and how long that effect lasts. You should feel comfortable sharing with your doctor what your goals and hopes are and what your struggles have been. Taking the time to have a detailed discussion with your doctor will help him/her craft the treatment plan that best suits your needs. If your doctor does provide you a prescription for your pain, it is critical to learn the possible side effects and work with your clinician to plan accordingly. For example opioids and narcotics cause constipation and NSAIDS can irritate the stomach so if you already have those issues you may want to avoid those medications.

For more information about the comprehensive family of Jewish Home senior care services, contact our Connections to Care toll-free hotline at (855) 227-3745 or click here to complete our online information request form.

The information provided in Senior Health e-Connect is a public service of the Los Angeles Jewish Home and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice.
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