Q: I feel like I am in constant pain, yet my doctor is not doing anything for it. What can I do to feel better?
A: Many people believe that experiencing pain is a natural part of aging, but it does not have to go untreated. Studies show up to 4 out of every 5 adults age 65 and up experience chronic pain. Because people assume it is normal and expected as we age, they may not tell their doctors. Or if they do tell their doctor like you did, the doctor may be hesitant to prescribe pain medication. Older adults process medications differently and may also be on other medications that can cause interactions or side effects. This may make doctors wary of prescribing more medications.
Quality of life means being free from pain that gets in the way of your daily functioning and joy. Pain medications are one option to treat pain and should be explored and discussed with your doctor. If you do not feel your doctor is explaining these options or taking your concerns seriously, consider talking to a different doctor.
However, there are often ways to treat and reduce pain other than medications. You may want to ask your doctor about other treatments such as cannabidiol (CBD). Stress relieving activities are often shown to reduce chronic pain symptoms. Yoga, meditation and music are some of the ways to reduce stress and tension that may make chronic pain more manageable.
Stress is intertwined with physical pain and other medical conditions. Stress can lower your immune system, raise your blood pressure and cause digestive issues. It is no wonder it can also exacerbate pain symptoms.
Exercise is also often used in pain management. Often inactivity will lead to muscle atrophy, more pain and poor balance. Many people with chronic pain can exercise safety and find benefit in movement for their overall health. This should be discussed with your doctor first. The types of exercise may be modified based on the cause of your pain.
There is a research-based pain management class called Chronic Pain Self-Management. This is a 6-week course that teaches you methods to manage pain and uses techniques to reduce fatigue, anxiety and sleep loss. You can find a class offered near you at https://www.cahealthierliving.org/health-self-management-3/
One aspect of this class that is especially valuable is that you create your own personal action plan each week. This means you set yourself a specific goal to work on in between the classes. Then you report back to the class on how you did with your plan. Goal setting is an important part of making sustainable changes in your life. By working with a class who hold you accountable to your goals it is likely you will see more benefit and change.
It is important to be an active participant in your own health and wellbeing. Chronic pain can hamper our day to day lives and change our mood. But often, there is much we can do to reduce our pain and improve our mood and quality of life. I encourage you to communicate your concerns and needs clearly to your doctor and look for ways to address the pain. Make taking care of yourself and reducing your pain a priority.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org