What happened when you fell off your bike as a kid? If you’re like most of us, you probably had a parent that told you to “walk it off” and get back on that bike.
It’s not bad advice for a kid because most of the pains we experience in childhood are acute and have an obvious cause. It’s the cause-and-effect type pain: Scraped knee equals pain. And then it subsides.
And when you’re younger, your body is better equipped to deal with all sorts of pain. As the body ages, it becomes less efficient at healing. You may start noticing this in your 30s, but by the time you reach your 50s, you shouldn’t be ignoring or “walking off” any type of pain. If you do, your actions could have serious consequences.
Pay attention to pain
Pain is your body’s way of communicating with you. It’s signaling that something is wrong, and you need to pay attention — the more intense the pain, the more urgent the issue. All pain has a purpose, so you must pay attention.
Even if your pain seems to come out of nowhere, it has a purpose. Your body is telling you that something isn’t quite right. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with a major life-threatening issue, but you should know what’s going on.
Pain in your back could indicate something worse than the pinched nerve you were assuming you had. A migraine may be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Or it could just be a migraine. You’ll never know until you get it checked out.
Pain is like the “check engine” light in your car. It’s a clear signal that something needs attention. Ignore it, and that issue is likely to get much worse over time.
ABMC Geriatrics study says that as many as 60 percent of seniors living at home and 80 percent of seniors in nursing homes experience chronic pain.
Most seniors are dealing with pain on some level as a result of arthritis or another chronic condition. But there are some cases where pain may signal something more sinister.
Don’t hesitate to see your doctor about your pain. Take note of where and when you experience pain, so that you can get the best diagnosis from your doctor later.
Understand that even if you’re dealing with something more serious than benign, there are treatments available. And it’s always better to treat things before they progress and worsen.
Come up with a plan of attack
Talking to your doctor is a good first step, but it’s not the end of your journey. In this information age, it’s crucial that every patient or caregiver become their own advocate. Your doctor can help you figure out why you’re in pain. From here, she will probably offer a few treatment options. She may also give her opinion on which you should take. Listen to everything your doctor has to say and then do your research.
Many people who are dealing with pain also struggle with substance abuse. In this case, you’ll want to explore a dual diagnosis treatment.
Maybe their treatment options other than the ones your doctor has mentioned. Or maybe you can dig deeper into each treatment to figure out which is right for you.
Your doctor will likely do her best to inform you of the potential risks and rewards of each option, but understand that your doctor has limited time in which to give you this information. It’s not possible for your doctor to relay everything about an illness, disorder or treatment. This is why you’ll want to get involved in your treatment plan.
Discuss everything you’ve learned with your doctor, ask any questions you may have, and come up with a plan of attack together.
When to be concerned
Talk to your doctor about any pain that’s unexplainable, especially when it seems to be chronic.
But if you’re having pain along with any of the following symptoms, take it seriously and call the doctor right away:
- Changes in digestion or bowel function
- Unexplained bumps, bruises or abrasions
- Chronic headaches
- Exhaustion or fatigue
If you’re experiencing pain that won’t subside, talk to your doctor about it. You need to know what’s going on before you can address the cause and begin living a pain-free life again.