seniors walking in the field

What Causes Pain Among Older Adults?

In Georgia, seniors account for 11% of the population. Sadly, many will experience varying degrees of pain due to acute and chronic diseases. This is even if, in reality, pain is not a normal part of aging.

What causes pain, and how can pain management telehealth services in Georgia help these older adults?

Where Pain Comes From

A senior’s pain can come from a variety of sources. Here are some of them:

 1. Arthritis

Arthritis refers to any inflammation that affects the joints. According to the CDC, it impacts at least 54.4 million adults, which could increase to 78 million by 2040. By then, about 26% of the population will have arthritis.

Although it can actually happen at any age, it is the most common among the older groups. Nearly 50% of people diagnosed with the condition are 65 years old and above.

Why is it more prevalent among seniors? One common reason is the wear and tear of the joints as the person ages. The cartilage that protects them gets damaged, so joints end up rubbing each other, causing pain.

However, because arthritis is a broad term and covers other conditions like osteoarthritis or gout, experts cannot pinpoint a single cause. For instance, in 2016, the Mayo Clinic said that gut bacteria could both cause and prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Sensitivity to Pain

senior walking

In a 2008 study, researchers revealed that older people tend to complain more about chronic pain than their younger counterparts. It could be because they are experiencing more pain or they have become more sensitive to it.

Increased pain sensitivity might be due to the anatomical and chemical changes in the brain. A 2012 research in Pain Medicine cited the dysregulation of the feedback loop involving the hypothalamus, adrenal glands, and pituitary gland due to advanced aging.

 3. Falls

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal and fatal injuries among older Americans. One in four over the age of 65 will fall. Every 11 seconds, one senior lands in the emergency room.

What makes fall dangerous for older adults? Many factors can make it deadly.

One is limited mobility. Pain can prevent them from exercising or maintaining their balance and agility. Some seniors may avoid participating in activities such as walking because they fear falling.

The second is a change in the bones. As the person ages, the bone absorbs less calcium, making it weaker and prone to breakage or fractures.

4. Chronic Diseases

Aging is a major risk factor for almost all chronic diseases. These include cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, hypertension, and cancers. Depending on the severity of these conditions, the person can experience pain.

Aging triggers cellular changes. For one, the telomeres, which act as protectants of chromosomes, further shorten.

It then raises the risk of DNA damage, which causes the cells to function abnormally. They may not process or create enzymes and hormones properly. Cells may eventually mutate.

Older people are also more prone to chronic inflammation – a process known as inflammaging. It could be because the body has a lesser ability to fight free radicals or the cellular changes make the person likely to undergo long-term inflammation.

How Telehealth Services Can Help

The solution to pain depends on the root cause. Regardless of the reason, though, more often than not, it is manageable. The patient needs to regularly meet their healthcare provider to adjust medications, provide rehabilitative services, or monitor their overall health.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic around, people in pain might be afraid to get out of the house. Some healthcare facilities can also postpone elective procedures, which could also alleviate pain.

While some need to visit the hospital, especially if the pain is already intolerable, others can benefit from a telehealth service in Georgia.

In this setting, the patient can receive orders, prescriptions, and other related services at the comforts of their home. Some clinics use video conferencing besides phone calls so that they can further observe the patient.

Telehealth services help reduce the fears of seniors in pain and increase compliance, especially in medications. Non-compliance is a big challenge among this group as patients might:

  • Avoid taking medications, religiously fearing side effects
  • Use off-label drugs instead
  • Skip their medications because of lack of funds
  • Already experience forgetfulness, so they cannot keep track of their medications

Lastly, telehealth is essential for seniors who live alone. In Georgia, about 26% of seniors live alone. The service will make them feel less lonely and assure them that they have someone to rely on when health problems like pain worsen.

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