Quiz: Myths and Facts About Seniors and Pain

September is Pain Awareness Month.

For many centuries, pain was a mystery to human beings.  Like the rising and setting of the sun or the change of seasons, the occurrence of pain inspired much mythology and speculation in ancient times. Early civilizations attributed pain to evil spirits or divine punishment. Some mythologies assigned specific demons to toothache, foot pain, or sore throat. The Ancient Greeks believed pain came from the goddess of punishment, Poine—from whose name the word "pain" was derived.

Even though we know much more about the causes and mechanisms of pain today, many myths abide—myths that can cause seniors to miss out on treatments that might help them control pain. Pain is one of the most significant causes of disability as we age, and managing pain effectively is essential to being able to live life to the fullest.  Take this quiz to find out how much you know about this important issue. (Answers are at bottom.)

Myth or Fact?

  1. Pain is a normal part of aging.
  2. It would be great to eliminate all pain!
  3. Sometimes pain is caused by injury to the nerves themselves.
  4. Pain can be "all in your head."
  5. Medication is the only treatment that can relieve pain.
  6. If a painful condition persists, it's best to "tough it out."
  7. Because of the danger of addiction, many pain medications should be avoided.
  8. Seniors are less likely than younger people to ask their healthcare providers for pain relief.
  9. The recommended dosage of pain medication remains the same as we age.
  10. If you have arthritis pain, you should protect the joints by not exercising.

 


Answers to "Myths and Facts About Seniors and Pain":

  1. Pain is a normal part of aging.
    Myth. Although seniors are more likely to experience pain, it is not a "symptom" of aging, and should not be considered as inevitable.
  2. It would be great to eliminate all pain!
    Myth. Pain is a signal to the brain that something threatens the well-being of the body. It is the mechanism that warns us of injury or illness. Without it, we could not survive.
  3. Sometimes pain is caused by injury to the nerves themselves.
    Fact. Sometimes the nerves send "false signals" that something is wrong with a body part or organ. Damage to the nerves, spinal cord and brain can cause this persistent pain.
  4. Pain can be "all in your head."
    Myth…and Fact. While most pain is the result of physical causes, how we think about pain can make a difference. Depression and anxiety magnify our perception of pain, which leads to more depression and anxiety. But the cycle often can be broken through pain control techniques.
  5. Medication is the only treatment that can relieve pain.
    Myth. There are many other options for pain treatment—physical therapy, massage, exercise, regional anesthesia, relaxation training, yoga and biofeedback, to name a few.
  6. If a painful condition persists, it's best to "tough it out."
    Myth. Studies now show that ignoring pain can actually allow a pain pattern to be intractably established. Ignoring chronic pain makes it more likely that pain will persist and be harder to treat.
  7. Because of the danger of addiction, many pain medications should be avoided.
    Myth. Certain medications (morphine, codeine and related drugs) can cause physical dependency, and are prescribed with caution. But researchers now believe that these drugs can have a positive impact on quality of life when used exclusively for the treatment of pain.
  8. Seniors are less likely than younger people to ask their healthcare providers for pain relief.
    Fact. While seniors are the most likely to experience pain, they are the group that is least likely to ask for help. This can stem from the mistaken belief that they are "just getting old," or "don't want to be a bother." In reality, treating pain can improve the quality of life for seniors, and preserve function and independence.
  9. The recommended dosage of pain medication remains the same as we age.
    Myth. Decreased kidney function may cause substances to be excreted more slowly, which could allow a toxic dose to build up. Side effects of medications are also more common in seniors. And for people taking drugs for multiple conditions, it’s important that the pharmacist and healthcare provider have a complete list of all their medications, to avoid harmful interactions.
  10. If you have arthritis pain, you should protect the joints by not exercising.
    Myth. Exercise is actually the most important treatment for controlling pain and preventing disability in people with conditions such as arthritis. Increased strength and flexibility bring a better blood supply to muscles and joints. Talk to your healthcare professional about an exercise program that's right for you.

Untreated pain can cause a significant decline in the well-being and quality of life of seniors, resulting in fatigue and depression, anxiety, withdrawal from social life and reduced ability to perform the activities of daily living. So if you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain, it is important to work with the healthcare provider to determine the most effective treatment. Pain relief is an essential part of good healthcare. And today's pain specialists are more able than ever to tailor pain control to each individual's needs.


This article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Speak to your healthcare provider if you are in pain or if you are considering a change in pain management.

Copyright © IlluminAge, 2013