One of the most stressful things about caregiving is dealing with the pain of a loved one. This caregivers guide to pain management will help you navigate their pain while giving them support and care
Around 116 Mn Americans suffer from chronic pain. Many do not get proper health care treatment. Chronic pain has become a serious issue among people, and it just does not affect people with pain but also the caregivers.
Caring for your loved ones with acute or chronic pain has become challenging, and this is because the pain is different for different people. It is very stressful to see your loved ones suffer from pain. And even more when you feel powerless to do anything.
Nowadays, with the advancement of technology and medicines, many pain management techniques and therapies are available. It includes massage, physical therapy, specific pain medications, and acupuncture.
Let us look at the caregivers’ guide to pain management in which we will cover:
- Types & causes of pain.
- Ways To manage pain
- Caregiving your loved ones with pain.
- Lifestyle changes to minimize chronic pain
- Precautions when you take any medications.
Pain can be acute or chronic, depending on the cause. Some people may think that as they grow old, they may have some kind of muscle pain or weakness. At the same time, others may think that they are just complaining.
Pain is a natural part a person may suffer from as they age due to other problems. Pain in the body tells you something is not right, making you very uncomfortable. For example, you may feel pain when you walk with an injured leg, and this is how your body gives you signals to stop walking.
After the age of 65, many people have arthritis. Stomach problems, cancer, and nerve damage are other reasons behind seniors’ pain. Many people may even suffer from muscle pain caused due to fibromyalgia. This mainly occurs in older women.
So people can suffer from some other pain after a certain age, which can lead to other problems such as mobility issues. People may find it difficult to sleep and have bad mood swings due to pain, making them depressed and anxious.
But with the advancement in technology and medication, people can get relief from pain and get proper treatment as per the cause. There are both medicine and non-medicine strategies for pain.
Types Of Pain
Pain may vary from person to person, and there are many causes. Pain can be a normal ache in the body and may range from mild to extreme. There are different types and causes of pain a person may suffer from.
Acute pain is usually for a short time, and it generally lasts for a few minutes to a few months. It is related to a small injury or illness that heals. Acute pain due to some injury can even lead to chronic pain if the healing is not taken care of correctly. This type of pain is usually due to tissue damage such as muscle, organs, or bone. This sometimes can even lead to anxiety and depression.
Chronic pain can last for a longer time. If pain lasts longer than 3 months, it is chronic pain. A person may require medical treatment. It is considered a long-term illness and is usually associated with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or tissue damage.
The number of people with chronic pain is increasing. Diseases related to injury or pain are the leading cause of disability worldwide. Chronic pain is also associated with many mental and physical health conditions, including depression, sleep issues, an overdose of medicines, or even social isolation.
This type of pain is caused due to tissue damage, a broken bone, or a cut. People may have sharp or achy pain, mainly due to severe external injury.
You may feel this type of pain if you fall and hurt your knees, twist your ankle or hit your hands somewhere. The pain is usually felt in the joints, skin, bones, muscles, and tendons.
This type of pain is caused by damage to the nervous system. People describe it as burning pain or a shooting sensation, and it feels like pins or needles. Neuropathic pain can occur impulsively, and a person may not feel hot or cold sensations. It is one type of chronic pain. However, the pain may come and go on its own. But it makes doing daily tasks challenging sometimes. The pain affects the movement of a person leading to mobility issues.
This type of pain occurs in the back, legs, shoulders, or arms. It can get worse over time if not treated properly. A person’s legs and arms may become weak. The leg pain can be related to numbness, muscle weakness, and loss of sensation. The motor function may depend on the severity of the pain.
Causes Of Pain
Chronic pain is the most common type of pain, and it requires proper care and treatment. Sometimes the cause of the pain is very obvious, and it is due to some illness like arthritis or cancer.
Sometimes some injuries may cause a few changes in the body. It may become weak, sensitive, and painful. The injury may get healed, but the pain may still be there. A broken bone or sprain may leave the pain. Sometimes the pain is caused by stress, depression, and anxiety.
A lot of people suffer from back pain. This is primarily due to:
- Poor posture
- Overweight, the leading strand on the knees and back.
- Wearing heels.
- Poor sleeping position.
A person may feel pain due to tissue damage caused mainly by injury in the bone, organ, or soft tissue. The injury can be due to diseases like cancer or just a cut or broken bone.
A person may feel a sharp stabbing or ache. It can be there for some time and go away on its own. The pain may even get worse when you move. Sometimes tissue damage may have acute pain. It may be due to some sports injury causing sprains or turf toe. Chronic pain can be due to headaches and arthritis, which need proper medical treatment.
Nerve damage affects the body and interferes with the signals transmitted, causing pain. A person may feel a burning sensation in the body even if no heat causes burns. Nerve damage can be due to diseases like diabetes, HIV infection, stroke, or trauma.
Ways To Manage Pain
Let us look at specific methods and techniques that will help ease out the pain.
Hot And Cold Therapy
It is one of the most common techniques that help ease out the pain. If there is any swelling or inflammation, using an ice pack helps reduce the swelling faster. People usually wrap the ice pack in the cloth and then apply it over the skin.
People use heat packs to get relief from muscle or joint pain, and it helps in proper blood circulation and relaxes the muscles.
Physical therapy is a non-drug treatment, and it is very effective in reducing the symptoms and helps relieve pain. This type of therapy helps strengthen the muscles and joints. The therapy sessions and exercises may be different for different people, and it will depend on the severity of the pain.
People prefer to go for therapeutic exercises for chronic pain, which has long-term benefits. Thus physical therapy is one of the best ways to ease the pain.
Along with physical therapy and certain medications, people go for massages. It helps the body to be more flexible, improves posture and circulation. It helps reduce swelling and stiffness in the body. Getting a massage is very effective for back pain.
This method involves applying needles at specific points in the body. It manages many pain conditions. It helps ease out pain in the lower back, knee, neck, and some diseases like osteoarthritis. Overall, acupuncture helps in reducing inflammation, muscle spasms, and relief from pain.
Yoga helps strengthen muscles and relax. Specific poses and stretching exercises help in keeping the body flexible. Yoga may not help a person with chronic pain but will help cope with it, and it helps them control the pain that affects their everyday routine.
People can quickly try yoga at home, watch some videos, or attend online sessions as well.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Some people go for psychological therapy like talking therapy. It helps in treating chronic pain. These treatments help a person by reducing the negative impact of pain that leads to their mental health. This type of therapy is very effective in getting relief from pain after the treatment. Thus, it helps improve the quality of life among people and reduces stress and anxiety.
This is a type of exercise that involves slow body movements along with some breathing and relaxation therapy. It is very gentle on the muscles and joints. This therapy helps improve joint stability and strengthen muscles.
It also helps improve the concentration of a person. This therapy helps improve pain due to arthritis, osteoporosis, and lower back pain.
A person may feel uncomfortable and stressed due to chronic pain. Specific relaxation techniques can help ease aches, muscle spasms, and muscle tension. This technique helps promote better sleep and reduce stress and anxiety among people.
Some relaxation techniques include
- Breathing Exercise. Some slow breathing exercises help relieve stress and tension.
- Calming Activity. Activities like reading a book, doing some creativity and crafting, and having a warm bath help you relax and have a good time. You can even spend a few minutes thinking calmly and imagining scenery surrounded by trees and birds.
Some people prefer having or need to have medicines to manage pain. Each drug works differently for different people, and it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting up with any medications.
The most common medicines to manage pain include:
Paracetamol. Most doctors and professionals recommend paracetamol to manage pain.
Aspirin. People usually have aspirin for acute pain such as headaches or fever. The pain can be mild to moderate.
Opioid. These medications are recommended for severe pain caused due to some diseases such as cancer. Please don’t take any medication before consulting your doctor. This medication is taken only for a short duration. As per CDC, people should only take this medication when there is chronic pain, and there is no risk.
Antidepressants. These medications are used for specific pain, such as nerve pain.
NSAIDS. The Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Drug helps reduce pain and swelling. Talk to your doctor before using these kinds of drugs.
Creams And Patches. There are certain creams available in stores without a prescription, and these creams can be applied to different areas of the body. A person using such creams needs to be watched for any side effects.
So these medications help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some chemicals in the body cause swelling and inflammation, and the medicines help stop these chemicals (prostaglandins).
Precautions When You Take Any Medications
It is better to consult your doctor before taking any pain medications. Here are a few suggestions.
- Don’t take any pain medications on your own if you are pregnant. It may harm you or lead to any side effects.
- Seniors are at risk of side effects due to medications. As a caregiver, you need to take care of your loved ones. Taking a pain reliever regularly is not good and can lead to stomach ulcers.
- Don’t take more than one pain medicine without communicating with your doctor. You may take an overdose. Many medicines contain paracetamol. So you need to make sure you are not taking any other medications at the same time.
- Before taking any pain medications, consult with your doctor or pharmacist about any other medicines you may be taking. It will help give you medicines that you can take safely.
- Even if you have any sports injury, consult your doctor and get proper treatment. Many times, the injury may heal, but the pain remains.
Effectively Manage Your Medications
Always follow proper instructions when starting with any medication. By this, you will manage pain effectively and reduce any side effects. Medications to treat chronic pain have to be taken regularly, and you can consult your doctor if some medicines are causing any side effects or not working for your problems.
Along with taking medications, people can stay active, do some exercises, keep themselves busy, and avoid pain triggers.
Caregiving Your Loved Ones With Pain
When you care for your family members or loved ones, you need to believe they are in pain. As a caregiver, you need to look for the cause of their suffering. Look at their facial expressions, body movements, behavior, and emotional changes.
You can consult a doctor to get proper medical treatment for chronic pain. You can keep a copy and note down the symptoms and changes you see in your loved ones and communicate the changes to your doctor.
You may find it challenging to care for your loved ones or family members with chronic pain, and you and your loved ones will face difficulty living with an emotional and physical burden. Let us look at the steps to manage emotional and physical pain.
People with chronic pain will often find a few changes in the body. They may find it difficult to move and do their daily work. Injuries or a loss of limb causes pain and leaves the person with physical challenges. These physical changes often make it challenging to work on their own or participate in their activities.
As a caregiver, you need to support and help your loved ones with the daily tasks and other work. You need to understand your loved ones’ pain and be their support. Let them know that you are with them to help out on things to rely on you in every way.
Along with the physical changes, there is an emotional impact. You will find changes in your loved ones’ way of thinking. Chronic help puts a limit on a person’s daily activity. People with severe pain may suffer from depression, loneliness, and anxiety. This can be a challenge for a caregiver too.
As a caregiver, you need to be patient. Help your loved ones who have a negative impact due to chronic pain. Listen to what they feel and how they cope with the chronic pain.
While taking care of your loved ones, don’t forget to take care of yourself too!!
There can be a financial challenge for both caregivers and their loved ones. A caregiver may need to take a leave from work at times, which can even lead to substantial medical costs.
Caregivers need to prepare themselves for the financial costs and have the insurance cover their loved ones or family members. They need to have proper planning on dealing with the expenses on the medical treatment and care.
People with insurance cover will have financial security. You can connect with health care providers to know about the insurance policies and all expenses they cover.
Thus, caregivers need to believe in the person with chronic pain. If a person with pain starts thinking that their family members do not believe them, they will stop talking about the pain and become more depressed. This will make it more challenging to cope with the pain. People with severe pain will only know how difficult it would be to manage.
As a caregiver, you need to ensure proper treatment is provided to your loved ones and help control the pain. Along with some medications, take them to some therapy sessions that will help strengthen their muscles and reduce pain.
Lifestyle Changes To Deal With Chronic Pain
People with chronic pain look for different ways to reduce the pain level. One of the best ways to reduce the pain is to make some lifestyle changes.
People can manage the pain related to weight by following a healthy diet. Including fruits and vegetables in your diet can help maintain a healthy weight, and it also helps strengthen the joints and muscles. Having a proper diet that includes proteins, vitamins and minerals help reduce inflammation, which is the leading cause of pain. Following a healthy diet with some exercise will help weight loss and reduce pain.
Limiting Alcohol Consumption
People who consume alcohol just before going to bed disrupt their sleep patterns. Sometimes people with chronic pain consume alcohol to manage pain, which may worsen it. A person with chronic pain should take alcohol in moderation.
Improving Sleep Patterns
Having proper sleep helps reduce fatigue and pain. People with chronic or acute pain should rest more.
Though it may not be possible to eliminate stress from a person’s life, a person may feel stressed, anxious, and depressed due to chronic pain.
But a person can reduce stress by doing some deep breathing exercises, meditation, or even spending time with nature. A person will get relief from chronic pain by controlling stress, and an evening listening to soothing and calm music helps a person.
Keep A Track On Your Pain Level And Daily Activities
To help you cope with your pain, a doctor needs to know how you feel. Keeping track of your pain level and symptoms will help you cope with the pain, and you can even note your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10.
It may be challenging to deal with people with pain, which some diseases or illnesses may cause. The more a caregiver supports their loved ones with pain, they will not feel powerless.
The best way to manage and treat the pain is first to identify its cause. Pain caused due to some injury can be treated on its own. But chronic pain requires proper treatment and medications. People with chronic pain may try different treatments and therapies to reduce the symptoms and pain.
As a caregiver, you need to support your loved ones and support them. Help them with their daily activities and consult a doctor if the pain does not disappear.