Learn how to manage chronic pain
June 18, 2018

Q:  I have arthritis that has resulted in joint replacements and ongoing pain. I try and stay as active as possible even though this causes discomfort. I have had side effects from most of the narcotics prescribed and do not want to rely on any of those. I am looking for other alternatives to try and learn to live with my condition. Any suggestions?

A:   It is estimated over 100 million adults in the U.S. are living with persistent pain. Pain that is poorly managed often results in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, loss of independence or social withdrawal. Uncontrolled pain understandably decreases the quality of life for those who are suffering.

Managing pain may include pharmacologic and/or non-pharmacologic approaches. The outcome is to result in pain reduction but equally important to improve functioning for individuals. Pharmacologic refers to medication management of pain which most people are familiar with if they have ever experienced any level of pain. Physicians may prescribe the lowest recommended dose and gradually increase the medication as needed. A concern impacting older adults, which you have experienced, is they are at higher risk for side effects due to changes in the body as they age and the pain medication may interact with prescriptions taken for other existing medical conditions.

People may not be as familiar with non-pharmacologic treatments which include distraction (listening to music) and relaxation (massage or warm application) techniques, sensory stimulation and cognitive therapies. Physical activity tailored to individual abilities should be included whenever possible.

Individuals living with pain can learn coping skills if they are provided with the right tools and treatments. The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program and The Chronic Pain Self-Management Program are participant education programs developed at Stanford University may be just what you are looking for. The programs are offered in community settings and conducted by highly trained leaders. The workshops are held for two and a half hours, once a week for six weeks. The program addresses topics which included 1. techniques to deal with problems of frustration and fatigue 2. appropriate exercises for maintaining flexibility, strength and endurance 3. appropriate use of medications 4. communicating effectively with family, friends and medical personnel 5. nutrition 6. pacing activity and rest 7. how to evaluate new treatments. The program is intended to enhance regular treatment…not replace medical intervention.

Anyone experiencing on-going pain or if they know someone who is suffering needlessly should be encouraged to attend a six week workshop. Schedules are dependent on a required number of participants. For more information call 978-946-1211 or visit the Healthy Living Center of Excellence website for program locations,


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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