Growing older happens to everyone but many do not grow old as gracefully as others. Part of growing older involves the aging of the body. For many, as they grow older, physical pain becomes part of their everyday life. This physical pain comes from many various causes and the pain can affect each person in different ways. For some, staying physically active can delay or mask the regular physical pain that comes with aging. For others, no matter the precautions they use, the physical pain of growing old will change their life and the way they live it.
Some unfortunate persons suffer from disease that affects the body in a manner that causes pain at an earlier age than expected. There are yet another collection of people who have experienced some kind of traumatic accident that damaged their body to the extent to where it cannot be repaired to the condition it was before the accident. In these cases, the trauma leaves those affected to deal with a lifetime of physical pain (Henriques, 2013).
Regardless of the cause(s) of the pain suffered, the levels of pain suffered can easily be grouped. Those with the long-term, constant, high levels of pain can be classed as chronic pain sufferers. These persons suffer daily from pain that will, in some cases, never be able to be eliminated. For most of these particular persons, the act of growing older only intensifies this pain.
Types of Pain
There are different ways to categorize pain. There is emotional pain where a person experiences pain in their metaphorical heart. Many feel this when experiencing loss: loss of a loved one, loss of their dreams, loss of the expectations of life, etc. This can also be labeled as sadness. Depression is a popular result of emotional pain. Psychological pain is another name for emotional pain. Often this can be felt my those who have an existing psychological disorder (Jacques, 2018).
There is physical pain which describes pain felt in the physical body. This can be described in many ways like: aches, cramps, or just pain. Physical pain can be caused by a number of things: injuries, illness, disease, wear and tear, or aging to name a few. Physical pain can be separated into different types. Nociceptive pain involves the soft tissues and/or sensory nerves. A few examples of nociceptive pain are headaches, fibromyalgia, or arthritis. Neuropathic pain is a type of nerve pain that comes from nerves that are malfunctioning. Two types of neuropathic pain are diabetic neuropathy and sciatica (Jacques, 2018).
There are different methods to describe pain. Every day pain can be explained by pain caused by every day stress like headaches or minor body aches, overindulgence of alcohol, or other short-term aches that can be treated without professional medical intervention (Binkowska-Bury et al., 2013). Chronic pain can be classed into a few categories. Two of the most prevalent types of chronic pain are chronic benign pain and recurrent acute pain. Chronic benign pain which is pain that lasts for more than a six-month period and does not change. Recurrent acute pain which is pain that is associated with a chronic condition and lasts for longer than six months and chronic progressive pain which is pain that progressively increases for more than a six-month period of time (Mackintosh, Elson, & Fernandes, 2008).
Early identification of patients who are at risk of becoming disabled by their chronic pain is key to preventative therapies that could deter them from losing their mobility to pain. Older, less active patients are more prone to losing their mobility than more active chronic pain sufferers (Ostler, 1987). More active persons have a better chance of retaining their mobility. Mild daily exercise like walking, swimming, or yoga can be beneficial in keeping the aging population mobile and healthier than those who give in to their aches and pains.
Living with Chronic Pain
Living with chronic pain can be a daily chore. For some, it is a continuous issue. If the pain levels are high enough, chronic pain can control and sometimes ruin a person’s life. The decision to get out of bed involves the realization that any movement can and most times will include extreme pain. There are also the times when getting out of bed just is not worth suffering through the pain involved in such a task. Showering, dressing, moving around the house are all tasks that involve movement which would involve pain.
There are many different kinds of people who suffer from chronic pain each and every day. They range from children (Twycross & Collis, 2013) to centenarians (Tse, Wan, & Vong, 2013), from housewives to military personnel (Denke & Barnes, 2013; Lundberg, Bennett, & Smith, 2011). No matter the age or the vocational status chronic pain sufferers struggle through each day of their lives while trying to survive the misfortune that has been bestowed upon them. Many experience co-morbid issues related to their chronic pain. Levels of depression are highly correlated with chronic pain (Kowal et al., 2012; Perry, Psych, & Francis, 2013; Tse, Wan, & Vong, 2013).
There are some studies that patients report a higher than normal rate of memory problems among people who suffer from chronic pain but the studies report more of a retrieval problem as apposed to overall memory issues (Mazza, Frot, & Rey, 2018). Memory issues are an expected downside to growing older, but to have their memory exacerbated by chronic pain makes everything harder to process.
In addition to depression and memory retrieval problems, many chronic pain sufferers report feeling that they have become a burden upon their families (Kowal et al., 2012; Bailly, 2015). The feeling that others have to make sacrifices in order to care for the one in pain is a difficult position for most adults to manage. Sacrifices made can be like limited time away from home, inability to be spontaneous (i.e., going on a short day trip), going shopping that would involve extended time walking, or even going anywhere that would include climbing stairs. Once the chronic pain has begun to compromise the person’s mobility, the inability to be involved in activities with family and friends can bring about the guilt of interfering with loved one’s enjoyment. This guilt and feeling of being a burden lead some to develop depression.