Chronic pain is a complex and often debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is defined as pain that persists for more than 3 months, even after an injury has healed. Chronic pain is especially prevalent in older adults, with up to 50% of seniors experiencing some form of chronic pain.

Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Common symptoms of chronic pain include a persistent dull ache, burning, shooting or stabbing sensations, tightness or stiffness, and muscle soreness. Chronic pain can also lead to sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and decreased mobility. This can result in a reduced quality of life for older adults, who may find themselves struggling to complete even simple daily tasks.

Causes of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can have a wide range of causes, including underlying medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, and diabetes. Other causes can include injuries, surgeries, infections, or nerve damage. Chronic pain can also occur due to age-related changes in the body, such as decreased muscle mass and bone density.

Chronic Pain Management

The constant discomfort and lack of relief associated with chronic pain can lead to a significant reduction in quality of life, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks and enjoy daily activities. Fortunately, there are several ways available for chronic pain management.


Medications are often the first line of treatment for chronic pain management. They work by reducing inflammation, blocking pain signals, or altering the perception of pain in the brain. The best way is to talk to your doctor or General Practitioner who can assess your health condition and the pain to prescribe suitable medications.

Physical therapy 

Physical therapy is a non-invasive option for chronic pain that focuses on improving mobility, strength, and flexibility. It can help relieve pain, improve function, and prevent further injury. 

Right exercises as directed by a physiotherapist can help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion, as well as reduce pain and inflammation. Examples of exercises used are low-impact aerobics, yoga, and tai chi.

Psychological interventions

Psychological interventions can help manage chronic pain by addressing the emotional and psychological factors that can exacerbate pain.

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviours that can contribute to chronic pain.
  • Mindfulness involves practising mindfulness meditation and yoga to reduce stress and improve coping skills.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help reduce pain and promote relaxation.

Alternative Therapies

While medications and physical therapy are common treatments for chronic pain, alternative therapies may also be helpful for some patients. 

  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing.
  • Chiropractic: Chiropractic care involves manipulation of the spine and other joints to relieve pain and improve function.
  • Massage therapy: This hands-on therapy involves the manipulation of muscles and soft tissues to reduce tension and pain.
  • Yoga and meditation: These mind-body practices can help reduce stress, improve flexibility and strength, and promote relaxation.

Self-Management Techniques for Chronic Pain

Self-management involves taking an active role in the management of one's symptoms and making lifestyle changes to promote overall health and well-being. It can also reduce the need for medication or medical interventions.

One of the most critical aspects of self-management for chronic pain patients is learning to recognize and manage triggers. Triggers can include physical activities, stress, and environmental factors such as weather changes. By identifying these triggers, patients can take steps to avoid them or prepare for them, reducing the likelihood of experiencing a pain flare-up.

Seniors Doing Exercise Together

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can include a shift to a healthier diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce inflammation and promote overall health. Adequate sleep is also critical as it helps the body heal and regenerate, reducing pain symptoms.

Stress is another significant trigger for chronic pain. Practising meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy can also help reduce stress.

Check out what should a 7 Day Meal Plan for Elderly Adults look like


Exercise is another critical aspect of self-management for chronic pain patients. Even the basic stretching exercises and gentle movements such as yoga or tai chi can also be helpful in managing chronic pain symptoms. These activities promote relaxation and flexibility and can help reduce tension in the muscles, reducing pain symptoms.

Understanding Physical Fitness and Exercise for Seniors can be a good place to start exploring about physical fitness.

Heat and cold therapies

Heat therapy can help reduce stiffness and promote relaxation, while cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and pain symptoms. Heat therapy can include warm showers, heating pads, or warm compresses. Cold therapy can include ice packs or cold compresses.

How can others help?

Living with chronic pain is incredibly challenging and affects not just the individual, but their family and loved ones as well.

Role of Family and Friends in Supporting Chronic Pain Patients

A supportive network of family and friends can make all the difference in the world, helping individuals to feel less alone and more understood. Loved ones can provide practical assistance with daily activities or doing household chores. Listening and empathising can go a long way in providing emotional support. It's also important for loved ones to avoid dismissing or minimising the individual's pain, as this can be incredibly invalidating.

How Can Your GP Help?

GPs can work to develop a pain management plan that's tailored to their individual needs. Proper diagnosis of chronic pain is essential for effective treatment and management of the condition. They can also help to access community care services, such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy. They can refer patients to pain clinics or other specialist services if needed.

Support Groups

Support groups can offer a safe space to share experiences and provide emotional support. Many support groups are led by trained facilitators who can offer guidance and practical advice on managing chronic pain.

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