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Navigating Chronic Pain: Tips for Older Adults

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If you or a loved one is living with chronic pain, management can be key to quality of life. Although it is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care, the experience can be different for each individual. The good news is that there are ways to better understand this type of pain, as well as steps you can take to help alleviate its effect.  

What is chronic pain? 

Chronic pain is persistent and lasts for over three months but can also extend into years. It may occur anywhere in your body and according to the Cleveland Clinic, might be a continuing experience or can come and go. It not only interferes with daily life but can lead to depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping. 

Acute pain is different from chronic pain as it is typically a response to an illness or injury. The pain goes away once your body heals. Chronic pain, however, can continue even after recovery or occur for no obvious reason. 

Examples of chronic pain 

The sensation of chronic pain is often experienced as aching, burning, shooting, squeezing, stiffness, stinging and throbbing. While chronic pain can occur anywhere in your body, there are a few more common forms, including: 

  • Arthritis or joint pain 

  • Back pain 

  • Neck pain 

  • Cancer pain near a tumor 

  • Headaches 

  • Continued pain from scar tissue 

  • Muscle pain 

  • Neurogenic pain from nerve damage 

As pain is usually a symptom, your healthcare team will first try to determine its cause. Tests can assist, including blood tests, electromyography, X-rays, MRIs, nerve conduction studies, reflex and balance, spinal fluid and urine tests. 

Your medical team will also inquire about the following to assist in their diagnosis: 

  • Where is the pain located 

  • How intense is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10 

  • How often does the pain occur 

  • How much is the pain affecting your daily life 

  • Does anything make your pain worse or better 

  • Do you have a lot of stress or anxiety  

  • Have you had any illnesses or surgeries 

Source: ClevelandClinic.org 

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Tips for managing chronic pain 

Often referred to as the four pillars of chronic pain, the following lifestyle factors can greatly impact your ability to manage your pain, including: 

1. Stress 

Many individuals discover that reducing stress influences the occurrence of their chronic pain. Find what works best for you, including meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing. 

2. Exercise  

Low-intensity exercises for 30 minutes each day such as walking or swimming can reduce your pain – and relieve stress. 

3. Diet 

A healthy diet plays a major role in pain management. Experimenting with specialized diets such as eliminating foods connected with inflammation may help. 

4. Sleep 

Quality and the right amount of sleep is another major player in your overall wellbeing. Lacking sleep can cause weight gain and make chronic pain worse. 

Source: ClevelandClinic.org 

Steps for dealing with the effects of chronic pain  

1. Find enjoyment in life 

Constant or recurring pain can easily become your daily focus. Search for what will boost your quality of life and make attempts to rediscover what can still bring you joy. 

2. Monitor your mental wellbeing 

Chronic pain can lead to depression and anxiety, leading to decreased mental health. In a continuing cycle, suffering from these conditions can also make chronic pain worse.   

3. Search for a support system 

Living with chronic pain can be isolating and create feelings of loneliness and despair. It can help to reach out to others who are experiencing a similar situation.  

4. Talk with your medical team 

It’s important to follow up with your doctor when treating and living with chronic pain. It can be challenging but taking a team approach as you investigate different options or combinations of treatment can increase your chances of success.  

Life at a Milestone Community 

If you’re looking at options for retirement living, we invite your family to visit one of our Milestone communities - designed to support your loved ones to live their highest quality of life. 

We offer studio and one-bedroom private apartments for our assisted living residents as well as private or shared memory care suites for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We also offer studio, one and two-bedroom apartments in our independent living communities. 

Our memory care residents are cared for by our compassionate and specially trained team who meet them wherever they are in their journey with patience and kindness. The residents also have access to customized activities, programs and secured outdoor courtyard spaces. 

Our amenities and services encourage our residents in assisted living to engage with others, remain as independent as possible and be reassured that help is available whenever needed. 

In addition to our personalized services, we offer: 

  • Chef-prepared meals 

  • Full-service dining room and bistro/bar 

  • Clubroom with large screen and theater style seating 

  • Family gathering room 

  • Resident accessible chef’s kitchen garden 

  • Senior-inspired fitness center 

  • Hair and nail salon 

  • Resident-shared laundry rooms 

  • Elegantly designed common areas 

  • 24-hour on-duty care staff 

  • Scheduled transportation 

  • Secured community 

  • Direct access to adjoining walking paths and parks 

If your family is considering retirement living, we hope you will visit one of our communities. We are a trusted resource and are here to answer any questions. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to arrange a personal tour. 

We invite you to download our complimentary Senior Living Options Guide.  

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