Living with Chronic Pain

Challenges of Dealing With Chronic Pain While Aging


Chronic pain and aging often go hand-in-hand. Adults aged 65 and over tend to experience higher rates of chronic pain. This is partially due to these individuals having an increased likelihood of developing certain chronic pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. The intersection between age and chronic pain can present challenging issues.

Changes in drug efficacy

With age, body fat increases and muscle mass and body water content decrease. This causes drugs that dissolve in water to have a higher concentration. Additionally, drugs that dissolve in fat will have longer half-lives. The liver of elderly individuals is often smaller with less blood flow, which can change drug metabolism. Renal disease or poor renal clearance, which is common as a person ages, can also alter medication side effects.

Pain perception

Studies show mixed results on how the process of aging impacts pain perception. Older adults may have a higher pain threshold, which could pose an increased risk of injury. While additional research is needed in this area, there is evidence to show that elderly individuals have differing perceptions of pain.

Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are conditions that are characterized by cognitive decline. They tend to occur in the elderly population. Chronic pain is strongly associated with the mental decline that can happen with these conditions. Communication limitations that frequently accompany dementia and Alzheimer’s make it difficult for a person to express their pain. Some studies show that these individuals experience less pain, but it is thought to be due to their inability to communicate about pain. Other studies that are based on facial expressions have shown increased pain.


The process of aging increases the likelihood of requiring various medications, many of which are used to target pain. This can increase the possibility of unsavory side effects, drug interactions, and other risks. Finding a balance that incorporates non-pharmaceutical approaches, such as mindfulness, acupuncture, or physical activity, alongside medication can help to avoid these issues.

Additional source: ScienceDirect

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