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Understanding Acute vs Chronic Pain

Anyone can experience an unpleasant sensation or uncomfortable feeling at one time or another. For seniors, however, pain can lead to depression and anxiety, especially if recurring pain or discomfort reaches a point where it’s affecting quality of life. Pain falls into one of two categories: acute or chronic. Each type of pain can have an immediate or long-lasting impact on senior health.

What Acute Pain Means for Seniors

Most instances of acute pain are sharp and sudden, like a bee sting or a burn. Acute pain may also be a warning sign associated with a medical issue like a ruptured appendix, kidney stones, or an early sign of a potentially serious condition. Acute pain can be mild or severe, but usually goes away once the source of the pain is discovered and treated.

How Chronic Pain Affects Senior Health

Acute pain can become chronic pain if it lasts beyond six months. Even after the identified source of the pain has been treated, pain signals may remain active within the nervous system, as is often the case with back pain. For seniors, chronic pain can result in a fear of doing anything that may aggravate that pain and may lead to depression and increased anxiety.

Treating Acute and Chronic Pain

Specific treatments for acute or chronic pain depend on what symptoms the senior reports and whether or not a source of the pain can be found. However, treatments for any type of pain typically include:

• NSAIDs like Motrin or Aleve (to reduce inflammation)
• Nerve blockers
• Physical therapy
• Psychotherapy (often for chronic pain with no identified physical source)

Any type of pain in seniors, whether it’s acute or chronic, should be taken seriously. Successful treatment or management of pain includes identifying the source of the pain and taking steps to control contributing factors like inflammation. For seniors not able to verbalize their pain, observant at-home caregivers can go by visual clues such as noticeable changes in behavior or mood.

Learn more about senior health and wellness from Home Care Assistance, a reliable provider of senior home care in Annapolis. All of our care services include the use of our proprietary care methods designed to support the mental, physical, and emotional health of our senior clients. Call a dedicated Care Manager today at 443-302-2771 and request a complimentary in-home consultation.