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Taking a Chance with Non-Pharmacological Pain Treatments for the Elderly

Posted by Krizza Macairan on

Let’s just admit it, sometimes medicines can be scary when considering possible side effects, they may have! This can even get scarier with the elderly who are experiencing a lot of pain in all parts of their bodies. Start with non-pharmacological pain treatments and learn the wonder of these harmless methods.

The older people get, the more they are inclined to experience pain. According to Lee (2016), health care providers find it difficult to treat the elderly pharmacologically due to their limitations in terms of medicines. Some of these limitations and factors include:

  • Physical Effects of Aging
  • Abnormal Pain Effects
  • Tolerance with Opiates


With all the complications and possible effects that pharmacological treatments can do to elderly patients’ pain management, the best route to follow is to start with the non-pharmacological means. While it is undeniable that medications can treat pain, choosing safer treatments is the best option.


Factors Affecting Treatment Response


Evaluation of the pain and the elderly patient’s condition is always necessary for figuring out the perfect treatment that can be used for pain management. Galicia-Castillo & Weiner (2019) believes that treatment response can be affected by several factors, including: 

  • Psychological
  • Medical
  • Environmental
  • Social Conditions

Considering these factors will lead to finding the most effective treatment for pain management.


Non-Pharmacological Treatments for Pain to Consider for Elderly


There are several non-pharmacological treatments that can help manage pain in elderly patients. If need be, they can be combined and used together with pharmacological treatments (Robinson, 2019). These treatments can be divided into two groups; physical treatments and psycho-educational treatments.


Physical Treatments


  • Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy

This refers to massage and stretching therapy perfect for people with chronic pain. Hands-on care is one of the most underrated treatments today, which are in fact excellent for elderly patients. Gentle pressure, resistance, and stretching can help the elderly improve their muscle movements. In addition to that, they also provide relief, especially from massage.


  • Physical Therapy

While this is mostly offered to patients who have undergone terrible accidents and would need to empower the use of their limbs again, this treatment is also perfect for pain that even moving hands and legs a little is enough to be a big help.


  • Acupuncture

Needles can be terrifying, and it is the only thing that makes people scared about this treatment. The truth though, is that this therapy is painless and can be helpful in relieving people from pain.


  • Gel Packs

The old school home remedy gel packs provide more relief and benefit than people know. Easing localized pain, these packs can be warmed or chilled depending on the condition of the painful area.


Psycho-Educational Treatments


  • Relaxation Techniques


Diverting the conscious mind away from the pain is an effective way to ease it. This is particularly excellent for anxious patients who need to be calmed down. Some of the most popular relaxation techniques are:

  • Hypnosis
  • Guided Imagery
  • Music Therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Aromatherapy
  • Breathing Techniques
  • Tai Chi
  • Pet Therapy
  • Spirituality


Religious people are said to be less likely to suffer from chronic pain or fatigue, according to studies (Lee, 2016). Whatever religion one may have, having a positive outlook is always beneficial to people and this extends even to pain management.


Pain management can be tricky and a case of trial and error for a lot of people. For elderly patients, choosing the right treatment can mean a big improvement in their everyday lives. Daily pain for them is a struggle and getting relief from that is what they truly deserve.




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A Guide for Veteran’s Pain: Pain Management for Our Elders

Posted by Krizza Macairan on

Altered Physiology of Peripheral & Central Pain Mechanisms Aging can be a frightful experience, with all the changes that the body goes through. This is especially unpleasant for the veterans whose body has undergone rigorous activities in service of their nation. With pain is normally associated with aging, it is generally managed poorly.


Looking for better pain management methods is relevant, especially in the coming years. It is expected that the age distribution of over 65 years of age range will rise in the year 2050 by 36% that which is said to triple the current number (Schofield, 2007). To understand better, here are the physiological changes that the body goes through because of aging:


  • Decrease in Water & Lean Mass
  • Increase of Body Fat
  • Shrinking of Bones & Viscera
  • Decrease of Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Decline of Renal Function
  • Decline of Hepatic Metabolism
  • Impairment of Central Nervous System
  • Reduced Mobility
  • Decrease Socialization
  • Slow Rehabilitation 

 Pain and Its Impact on the Body

Pain has become normalcy to the elders. According to Schofield (2007), there is a pain time bomb to be wary of, affecting 80% of elders living in care homes and 73% of community elder dwellers.

Chronic pain has become a constant in the elderly, affecting their day-to-day activities that moving alone can be problematic. With the idea of pain being normal, most don’t complain about it and simply try to manage it on their own, being guided by their bodies and what can possibly make them feel better.

Besides aging, some of the conditions of elders that can lead to chronic pain include the following (Peterson, 2010):

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: Arthritis & Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral Vascular Disorders
  • Neuropathic Pain (Includes Post Herpetic Neuralgia)

 Pain disrupts people’s lives; there is no going around with it, affecting the quality of life and imposing social and economic costs.

Some of the more specific effects of pain to elder’s daily lives are the following:

  • Sleep Deprivation & Altered Sleep Quality
  • Reduced Social Activity
  • Depression
  • Poor Physical Functioning
  • Worsen Cognitive Dysfunction & Malnutrition

Understanding Pain Management Better


Pain management is an endeavor that a lot of elders fail in. There are several reasons why and some of which are:

  • Altered Physiology of Peripheral & Central Pain Mechanisms
  • Age-related Perception of Pain: Stoicism & Reluctance to Confirm/Admit Presence of Pain
  • Lack of Acceptable Pain Treatment for Elders
  • Fear of Chemical & Pharmacological Interventions

The first thing that should be accepted when dealing with pain is that it is a symptom and is never normal. Assessment is the second thing that must be considered, especially in identifying whether it is chronic (continues for 3 months or longer) or not. Considering the pain management method to use is the next step.

Different Pain Management Methods to Consider

It is a guaranteed challenge even for medical professionals and pain practitioners to manage pain for the elderly. Even being highly prevalent in the elderly, pain is undertreated, despite 75% of people aging 65 years and older suffer from it (Hulla, R. et al., 2019). There are several limitations to some traditional treatments due to their physical condition. Some of the most popular methods used though include:


  • Traditional Home Pain Remedy. Hot and cold therapy is considered one of the simplest yet most effective treatments for pain even for the elderly. The correct application of both therapies will lead to success and comfort. 

  • Myofascial Release. There are several methods for which myofascial release techniques can be implemented, including physical and occupational therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care.

  • Hypnosis. An altered state of consciousness that includes increased responsiveness can affect brain structured, particular pain perception, helping elders deal with their pain.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Mindfulness and meditation, despite demanding discipline and committed routine, help manage pain through increasing awareness of the present.

  • Basic Analgesics. Nonopioid medications like NSAIDs and acetaminophen can be considered for mild pain, which can gradually increase with the addition of opioid medications based on the severity of pain and by following the World Health Organization’s pain ladder (Tracy & Morrison, 2013).

    Helping elders by promoting health awareness is a step towards their improved pain management. Accepting the need for pain management methods will be highly beneficial, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest researches on it.



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    Got Pain on the Plane?

    Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

    Traveling can be tough for all kinds of reasons. Long lines. Delayed flights. Interacting with a bunch of strangers. Lost bags.

    But it can also be tough because sitting on the plane can cause neck and back pain unless you are conscious about preventing it. In fact, 90% of travelers report neck and back pain on the plane.


    Pack Light

    Who wants to pay all those extra fees for checked baggage anyway? Get a regulation-size carry-on with wheels and skip everything else.

    A lot of your back pain isn't starting in the plane. It's starting at drop-off, as you lug giant bags and purses towards the check-out counter. And sooner or later, you're going to have to pick them up again.

    While you're at it, find a lightweight purse or backpack which distributes weight evenly. I like a Multipurpose Backpack. In fact, it's seriously so well-designed I once packed clothes and toiletries for an entire week's trip, while including phone, Kindle, and chrome book with all chargers, plus my wallet. I had to do laundry once while on the road, but it was freeing and easy.

    If you're not quite at my level of minimalism it makes a great travel purse too. (Hint: if you're flying Spirit this thing is the exact size of their less-than-generous carry-on limits).

    If you're using a normal airline, a regular carry-on will do. Think you can't live without loads of stuff? See how veteran travelers manage it all the time.

    TL:DR? Make sure all the colors in your bag go together, bring exactly one pair of jeans (on your body, at the airport) because jeans are bulky, and favor slacks, skirts, shorts or canvas pants. Have a couple of outer shirts for layering. Make sure your shoes are good no matter where you want to take them, and bring them on your feet.

    A good pair of boots can go with almost anything. And if you've absolutely got to have a pair of shoes that kills on the fashion front, standard carry-ons do have the room if you are careful about everything else.

    Support The Lumbar Spine

    Improper lower back support is one of the major reasons why people get uncomfortable on the plane. The seats just weren't designed to be particularly ergonomic.

    If you have a Soothie you can strap it into place to get exactly what you need where you need it. If not, you can roll up a small blanket. Place it behind you and lean back until you're seated comfortably.

    If You're Going to Nap, Get Proper Neck Support

    Speaking of improper support, planes weren't really meant for napping, either. But if your flight's super long there's no getting around needing some sleep.

    Theoretically those chairs recline, but then you're sentencing someone else to a long, uncomfortable trip while your seat slowly crushes both that person's legs and his or her will to live.

    You need something specially designed for sleeping while sitting up. Here are a few travel pillow options worth checking out. Soothie works here too, but if you've got to choose because you only have one, use Soothie for the lumbar support and use a travel pillow for your neck.

    Use Hot & Cold Therapy to Relieve Pain In Transit

    Chiropractors will tell you to alternate between heat and ice if your back and neck pain gets too crazy on the plane. Your freezer pack will last for 6 hours, so charge it up and slip it in place before you leave home.

    Need the hot pack? See if a flight attendant will warm it in the microwave for you, or better yet slip into an airline convenience store to warm it up before boarding.

    Having both will help if the plane starts to turn super cold or super hot, which it always seems to do whenever I travel.

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    Is Your Pillow a Pain in the Neck?

    Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

    If you've got neck pain your pillow could be the primary culprit. Many people sleep on pillows that are too high, too low, too stiff, or too soft.

    The wrong pillow can strain your muscles, compress your nerves, and wear out your joints. That's no way to start the day, so follow these pillow-picking principles to find the bedtime support that's right for you.

    Conformity Called For

    Conforming to the norm may not be great for humans, but it's exactly what we want our pillows to do. Harvard Health suggests using either a memory foam pillow or a feather pillow to make sure the pillow conforms to the shape of your head and neck each night.

    Another option may be to get a high-quality water pillow.

    By conforming to the shape of your head and your neck you ensure your neck muscles don't have to work all night long to keep your head in a comfortable position.

    Hard or Soft?

    It depends on how you sleep.

    If you sleep on your stomach experts recommend a soft pillow. You're not putting as much weight on your neck that way, and you want something that you can position for breathing.

    But if you sleep on your side or your back, a firm pillow is what you'll want.

    What if you toss, turn, and change positions throughout the night? In that case, you'll want an ergonomic, concave pillow with plenty of support. Try searching for pillows made exclusively for combination sleepers when you go looking.

    The Mattress Matters, Too

    If fixing your pillow doesn't fix your neck pain you might turn your attention to your mattress, next. According to Consumer Reports, your best bet may be an adjustable mattress like a Sleep Number, which lets you switch up the firmness of the mattress as well as the position. Through trial and error you should be able to find the firmness that's right for you.

    If a Sleep Number mattress is outside of your budget, Consumer Reports recommends going to a firmer mattress, instead. Again, support is the name of the game.

    Still no relief?

    If you've changed up your sleeping habits and still can't get your back and neck pain to stop, it may be time to consult a chiropractor. If your neck is already out of alignment your pillow and mattress might not matter much. Get an adjustment, follow your chiropractor's instructions about additional therapies, and try again.

    You might just find the combination of prevention and cure is enough to give you way more pain-free days.
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    When The Daily Commute is a Pain in the Everything

    Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

    Nobody loves their morning commute. Or their afternoon commute. And while it would be nice to think we could all pick up, move, and end up closer to work, that's not always the case.

    Being a road warrior has impacts on mental health and happiness. You didn't need scientists to tell you that. What you might not have realized is it can also have a substantial impact on the health of your back, neck, and knees.

    You can't exactly start teleporting to your job either, so here are a few tips for dealing with the daily commute.

    Exercise to mitigate back and neck pain.

    Prolonged periods of sitting, especially in an unnatural position, are two of the drivers (no pun intended) of commuting pain. Certain muscles tighten up and shorten while others lose strength.

    "Sitting is the new smoking," but most of us can't do much about having to do it. What you can do is make it a point to do some strengthening and stretching exercises every day so you can give your muscles what they need to stay strong.

    Address your driving posture.

    We've all done the rapid-fire seat adjustment after the taller or shorter family member has used the car before us. But how much thought do you actually give to your seat position?

    Once you've got the seat close enough for you to comfortably reach the foot pedals, you need to start thinking about seat height. Your hips and knees need to be level. Adjusting the recline of your seat and the steering wheel position until you aren't putting any strain on your body is equally important.

    Bring portable comfort.

    Soothie's not the type of company that's going to hammer its product every blog post, but in this case it's really worth mentioning. Soothie can give your lower back the support it just doesn't get in any natural vehicle seat.

    Add the hot or cold comfort to ease painful muscles and you might just have a more bearable commute. Which means a more bearable work day, because you won't be in such a foul mood after your commute.

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