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September is Pain Awareness Month, and as unpleasant as it can be, pain is actually very important. It’s essentially our bodies’ way of telling us when something is wrong, or when to take extra caution. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to injury, so we wake up each morning with new pains in new places. This is normal and unavoidable, especially for seniors.

Chronic pain, however, goes further. On top of these common aches and pains, some seniors live with constant and consistent pain. In fact, over 116 million Americans suffer from some kind of chronic pain and, as The Huffington Post reports, it “affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.” But there’s no reason to suffer in silence and many pains can be lessened with proper medications or treatment.

There are two types of pain: Acute and Chronic.

assistedwalking[302x202]Acute Pain is typically related to an event such as a headache, a pulled muscle, a broken bone, and so forth. This pain is sharp but can be overcome in a matter of hours, often with over-the-counter medication.

Chronic Pain is a “persistent” pain that can come from a seemingly endless variety of causes. The Huffington Post further reported that chronic pain is a “disease in its own right” due to the fact that almost half of people over 65 live with pain on a daily basis.

Whether chronic or acute, there are common myths surrounding pain we sometimes fall victim of. The National Institute on Ageing addresses these on their website:

Myth: You have to live with the pain.

Truth: Most people don’t have to live with the pain. If your family doctor tries to help, but nothing works, don’t give up. Take the next step and visit a pain specialist. These specialists are trained to help patients relieve their chronic pain.

Myth: Drug side effects are worse than pain.

Truth: This is obviously case-by-case, but most side effects are not worse than the pain. Yes, many medications have side effects, but most side effects are much easier to manage than chronic pain. If a side effect is bad enough, your doctor can most likely prescribe a second medication to curb the effects of the first.

Myth: If you complain about pain, your doctor will think you’re just whining.

helpinghand[302x202]Truth: If you are genuinely in pain, your doctor will take it seriously. Be honest and tell you doctor exactly what is going on. Doctors are there to help, and if your doctor does think you’re a sissy or a whiner, then it’s time to find a new doctor.

Myth: Don’t use medication until the pain is really bad.

Truth: Medication is not just for when the pain gets unbearable. Medication can actually be used as a preventative action. If you feel pain coming on, often medication can help prevent it from becoming unbearable. Make sure you consult with your doctor first, though, and get approval for any medication you are taking,

Myth: The pain is “all in your head.”

Truth: Chronic pain is real. You, and only you, know what you are feeling. If you experience daily pain, talk to your doctor.

Massage[302x202]In addition to working closely with your doctor, there are other alternative approaches to pain. Tactics such as acupuncture, distraction, electric nerve stimulation, guided imagery, massage therapy, and physical therapy are ways some have relieved their pain and suffering. If you feel like medication isn’t doing enough to relieve the pain, some of these other options could be just what your body needs.

For those who struggle with chronic pain, the American Chronic Pain Association provides information and support. With support groups throughout the country, they can help you connect with others who are experiencing similar pain.

For the 116 million Americans who suffer each day, the pain can feel unbearable and unending. If you have a loved one who suffers from this type of pain, be understanding and supportive. A life full of chronic pain is difficult to bear. Let’s reach out to those who are suffering and do all we can to help relieve their pain.