Pain Management For The Elderly: Special Considerations And Challenges


Pain management for the elderly significantly differs from that for younger people. Affecting daily life and keeping the sufferer uncomfortable, pain whether acute or chronic, is a common health issue in the elderly. It becomes distressful especially if the older person is dependent on a caregiver. 


There are various causes of pain in the elderly including 

  • Neuralgia
  • Cancer
  • Musculoskeletal dysfunction 
  • Emotional and mental issues

Despite pain being a common condition among older people, it most of the times remain under-recognised and under-treated. A comprehensive assessment of pain involves steps such as identifying its cause, establishing its severity, determining its impact and reviewing the response to treatment. However, it is not that simple as there are certain challenges involved with pain management in the elderly as many older people have cognitive impairment, sensory difficulties and communication issues. 

Challenges of effective pain management in the elderly 

  1. Older people generally under report pain and therefore it is under treated
  2. Their response to therapies is usually with lesser efficacy and more adverse reactions
  3. Psychological and physiological changes of the ageing process 
  4. Cultural and religious beliefs that pain is part of the ageing process 
  5. Fear of the manifestation of side effects 
  6. Fear of falls and addiction to the pain medication
  7. Depression can alter the perception of pain and the ability to cope with it

Most of the time a multidisciplinary approach is required to address pain and its impact on the older person. A combination of treatments and therapies is often more effective.

  • Heat or cold – The use of ice packs after an injury can help reduce swelling. Heat packs are better for relieving chronic muscle or joint injuries.
  • Physical therapies – Walking, stretching, strengthening or aerobic exercises may help reduce pain, keep you mobile and improve your mood. 
  • Massage – It is better suited to soft tissue injuries and should be avoided if the pain is in the joints. 
  • Relaxation and stress management techniques – Including meditation and yoga.
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) – This form of psychological therapy can help you learn to change how you think, feel and behave about pain.
  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture aims to restore balance within the body and encourage it to heal by releasing natural pain-relieving compounds.


Sometimes pain persists and cannot be easily relieved. It’s natural to feel worried, sad or fearful. Here are some suggestions for how to handle persistent pain

  • Rather than focusing on stopping the pain, focus on improving your day-to-day function
  • Find out as much as you can about your condition so that you don't worry unnecessarily 
  • Enlist the support of family and friends and let them know what support you need
  • Take steps to prevent or ease depression by any means that work for you 
  • Don’t increase your pain medicines without talking to your doctor first
  • Improve your physical fitness, eat healthy foods and get all the rest you need
  • Try not to allow the pain to stop you from living your life the way you want to


Seek advice on new coping strategies, skills and treatments from your holistic healthcare professional to guide you through.


Want to learn more about pain management for the elderly? Check out our blogs related to pain management or find a provider who can help you address your questions about pain management considerations and challenges for the elderly.



Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog or in any linked material is not intended and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For holistic health advice and consultation, visit