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Chronic Pain in Older Adults

Older woman grasping her injured wrist and dealing with chronic pain in older adults

Older adults are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. since baby boomers are entering their senior years. Conditions that can cause chronic pain in older adults are becoming more of an issue than ever. After an injury or surgery, rehab services for seniors can help reduce the risk of developing chronic pain. For those living with pain, and their caregivers, it can help to learn more about what causes it and how to alleviate discomfort.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is any pain that lasts longer than three months. It may also refer to pain that lasts beyond the average recovery time or occurs due to a medical condition. Many older adults experience this kind of pain because they tend to have illnesses that can lead to chronic pain.

What Conditions Can Cause Chronic Pain?

Many conditions can cause chronic pain or exacerbate discomfort throughout the body. Some of the most common illnesses that affect older adults include the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Degenerative spine issues
  • Neurological diseases
  • Heart problems
  • Complications from osteoporosis

Even if incurable, seeking treatment for these conditions may help manage symptoms and minimize chronic pain in older adults.

Ways to Treat Chronic Pain in Older Adults

When most people think of pain relief, they probably think of taking medication. However, pain relief strategies reach far beyond simply taking a pill. Many traditionally-used drugs are not as effective for seniors living with pain and carry a risk of severe or unwanted side effects. At the same time, certain medications may provide significant relief for older adults who experience prolonged discomfort in the body. Here are some treatment options for chronic pain.


Opiates treat acute and severe pain. However, physicians often recommend alternative medications since opiates are highly addictive and frequently misused. They may also have unpleasant side effects. Some other options include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Neurological medicines
  • Other non-opiate pain relievers

Some seniors require ongoing treatment with opiate medications. In these instances, it’s vital to use these drugs carefully and under the supervision of a doctor.

Physical Therapy

For many people, chronic pain can develop due to an injury. For others, a medical condition can cause prolonged discomfort. The typical response to feeling pain is to minimize movement to avoid painful sensations. However, staying active and moving is a very effective way to reduce symptoms related to chronic pain.

Physical therapy can help seniors living with pain learn different stretches and exercises that promote flexibility and strength. It can keep older adults active, which may alleviate discomfort.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Individual Counseling

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that can help seniors with chronic pain learn to manage how they feel about their symptoms. Rather than trying to eliminate the discomfort, this therapy teaches older adults how to cope. Additionally, because chronic pain can lead to mental health complications such as depression and anxiety, individual counseling may reduce symptoms associated with these psychological issues and enhance the quality of life for seniors.

Seek Rehab Services for Seniors at Ventana

At our senior community in Dallas, our members have access to a full range of activities and services to help keep them fit and healthy. In addition to our VentanaFIT program, we offer rehabilitation services to help older adults recover from injury or illness and manage chronic pain. We strongly believe that our members deserve to enjoy life to the fullest extent, and we are committed to helping them achieve that goal. If you or a loved one have been considering a move to senior living, contact us today at 214.225.6197 or complete our brief online form.