How Aging Affects Chronic Pain
It’s no secret that as we get older, we feel older. Whether it’s stiffness, decreased mobility, or heightened pain levels, our bodies like to remind us daily that we’re not getting any younger.
But why does this happen? And can aging worsen already existing chronic pain? Today, we’re
diving into the connection between aging and pain and how you can help relieve it at home.
Age-related aches and pains
You may have heard the phrase “the pain of aging” before and while that can mean a lot of things to different people, it’s usually used to reference the pain your body regularly feels as you get older. And while we all know that each birthday can bring more aches and pains, why does this actually happen? As we get older, the ligaments (tissue that connects bone to bone) and tendons (tissue that connects muscle to bone) become stiff and lose their elasticity. This can cause discomfort as well as leave us more susceptible to injuries. In addition, the cartilage in the joints start wearing down after years of use which means the bones are closer together and may start to rub causing pain.
If you notice symptoms like dull aches, minor pains, and stiffness, don’t be alarmed. This is a result of the daily wear and tear that we put on our bodies as well as natural bone and muscle loss. However, there are some conditions that can cause pain that are fairly common as we age including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and osteopenia. Osteopenia is the beginning stage of osteoporosis. It occurs due to a loss of bone mineral density and is more prevalent amongst women over 50. It can be treated to ensure it doesn’t turn into osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the more severe version where the bones are so weak that even the slightest of movement or fall could cause serious breaks or fractures. Lastly, osteoarthritis is the most common of the three conditions and affects millions of people across the globe. It happens when the cartilage between the bones starts to wear away and cause joint damage. Osteoartritis can impact any of the joints in your body but it’s most prevalent in commonly used joints such as your knees, hips, hands, and spine.
Aging and chronic pain
So, what does this all have to do with chronic pain? It’s estimated that up to 30% of people in the U.S. experience chronic pain but that number rises to 75% in people 65 and older. And unfortunately, if you’re suffering from chronic pain under the age of 65, you most likely will have to deal with increased pain levels as you age. On top of the daily wear and tear that can cause you discomfort, there are several other reasons that chronic pain worsens as we age.
1. Quality of sleep
It’s not uncommon to go through changing sleeping patterns at different points in our lives. Your quality of sleep can all be affected by your internal clock, stress levels, and so much more. As we age, it can be harder for us to go to sleep and stay in a deep sleep. In fact, it’s reported that people over the age of 65 wake up 3-4 times a night causing them to feel unrested. This disruption in sleep and difficulty falling asleep naturally happens as we age but can also be caused by certain conditions such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and more. Getting a restful and deep sleep is so important to managing pain levels which is another reason chronic pain may get worse as you get older.
As we age, most of us will participate in less activities that get our bodies moving. And when you’re dealing with chronic aches and pains, movement is everything. So while it may become more difficult to exercise as we get older, that doesn’t mean we should stop moving altogether.
3. Brain function
Our muscles and bones aren’t the only things that change with age–our brain does too! People who suffer from chronic pain deal with memory decline and increased chance of dementia at a faster rate than those without. Our brain has such a huge impact on the way our body feels and moves so it’s no surprise that declining brain function can cause an increase in pain levels.
How to relieve pain from home
Although there may be no way to stop us from getting older, there are things that we can do to lessen age-related pains and decrease the chance for more serious conditions such as osteoporosis.
The food you consume has a HUGE impact on the way that your body feels. Aging bodies typically require less calories to function which means that people tend to eat less and may remove the foods they need to be nutritionally healthy. Make sure you’re eating foods that are bone and muscle friendly such as fish, leafy greens, oranges, dairy products, and more. Eating a diet with these foods ensures you’re getting the right amount of iron, calcium, potassium, and omega-3s.
It’s easy to lay off exercising because of your pain levels however, daily movement can actually help some of your age-related pains to go away! This is because activity increases blood flow and can strengthen muscles resulting in a decreased chance of injury. Try to incorporate low-impact exercises into your daily routine such as yoga, walking, or swimming.
Just like your diet, your water intake can impact the way that your body feels. Aging bodies get dehydrated faster because cells aren’t able to store water as easily. Unless you have a medical condition that restricts the amounts of fluids you should consume, aim to drink 60-80 ounces of water each day.
● Heat and cool therapy
Applying heat and cold to painful areas of the body can make a world of difference. Apply heat to any stiffness to loosen up the joints and increase mobility. Cold on swollen joints decreases inflammation and pain levels. The easiest way to apply heat and cool therapy is by using a pain-relief patch. The AREX Instant Pain Relief Patch by SINSINPAS provides both cool and hot effects to reduce inflammation and loosen stiff muscles/joints. It’s long-lasting and flexible to move with you throughout the day. Plus, the AREX pain relief patches are mess-free, easy to apply, and are even available in a gel-patch form for sensitive skin!