Pain is often left untreated in the elderly, leading to needless suffering. Seniors typically experience a greater degree of pain than do those in any other age bracket. Unfortunately, many people assume that pain comes along with old age and fail to discuss the topic with their medical practitioners. Safe and effective treatments are available for people of all ages, but there are some challenges specific to older patients.
Problems with medication for the elderly
Medication can cause issues for those who are older. Note that drugs are only one way to treat pain. Alternatives that lack the side effects and other age-related issues of medication are discussed below. Let’s look at why medication is tricky for elderly patients:
- Kidneys shrink as we get older, reducing their circulation and decreasing their ability to gradually expel the medication from the body.
- The liver gets smaller and has less powerful circulation as well, so its capacity to handle drugs is also hindered in the elderly.
- Saliva production is reduced as we age, which can make it more difficult to take pills.
- Alterations in the chemical makeup of the digestive system change the behavior of the stomach, increasing the difficulty of finding the right dosage level.
- Any pain medications can interfere with ones you are already taking.
If you do opt for oral pain medication, typically a physician will start you out at a low dose, then carefully make increases over time. The good news, though, is that there are also many other ways to treat pain that patients of multidisciplinary practices often find more effective, with less adverse reactions.
Elderly pain treatment: alternatives to drugs
Many pain management researchers and practitioners, over time, became dissatisfied with the typical options that were available to those suffering pain: surgery and medication. Several methods and therapies utilized by multidisciplinary practices can help alleviate pain in the elderly:
- Massage therapy – Medical massage can both help increase blood flow and target trigger points, bundles of fiber that generate pain.
- physical therapy – A strong physical therapy plan will use an array of direct and indirect techniques to treat your pain.
- Non-steroidal nerve block injections – This type of injection is a safe, proven way to stop pain signals before they travel from the periphery of your body to the brain.
- Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) – This strategy sends electrical impulses through your nervous system to prevent pain transmission as well.