Pain Management for Seniors

by: Karen Ostrosky, physical therapist, LIFE Butler County

Pain is a signal that your body sends to your mind, alerting you that you need to take action.

What makes existing pain worse?

  • Increased disease activity
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Focusing on the pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

What can make you feel better?

Positive Attitude

Yes, you may have pain, but don’t let it rule your life. Do and enjoy the things you can do. Don’t dwell on things you can no longer do. Surround yourself with positive people, family and friends. Think positive thoughts and have a sense of humor. Take care of your body by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, taking medicines regularly and taking time to relax and get a good night’s rest.

Don’t Focus on the Pain

How often do you think about the pain? The more you think about it the worse you feel. Focus on something outside your body, such as a hobby or other activity. Interact with people, do different activities so that you are not focusing on the pain.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

For example, instead of saying, “I don’t want to exercise today. My joints hurt. I’m too tired. I don’t want to get sweaty.” Try saying, “I really don’t want to exercise, but I know I will feel better afterward and it will help keep me healthy.”

Change Your Pain Habits

Instead of asking for more or stronger pain medicine, change your habit of dealing with the pain. Do something else positive – take up a hobby, use a heating pad, do some exercises, get up and walk around or call a friend.

Take Your Medications as Prescribed

If you start and stop your medication, it may not be as helpful. Talk with your doctor about questions regarding the pain medications you are on.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise can help improve your overall health and fitness. It helps keep your joints moving to give your more flexibility. It helps keep your muscles and bones healthy and strong. It improves your energy level, helps you control your weight, and improves your sleep, self-esteem and sense of well-being.

Protect Your Body

Use proper body mechanics. Avoid staying in one position too long. Balance activity with rest. Simplify your work by planning ahead and organizing to save unnecessary labor. Ask for help when you need it.

Use Heat and Cold Treatments

Use cold to reduce inflammation or swelling. Put it on for 15-20 minutes at a time. Use a pillowcase or towel between your skin and the cold pack. Moist heat is good for achy joints – either a hot pack, hot shower or warm compress. Topical pain rubs are also helpful.


Massage brings warmth and relaxation to the painful area. You can massage your own muscles or get help from a professional.

Practice Relaxation

Try to relax your body and mind. Whatever helps you to relax, take time to do it a little every day, especially before you go to sleep.

Lutheran SeniorLife’s physical therapists are here to assist you. Please call (724) 452-3492 for more information.