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Pain Management In The Elderly


Pain is a common complaint that is often poorly treated in elderly adults. Pain is not a normal part of aging, and may be a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes there is no clear or exact cause of pain. Pain management is an important part of your care.



  • Acetaminophen: You can buy acetaminophen without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. You can buy NSAIDs without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Narcotics: These medicines are used for moderate to severe pain.
  • Antidepressants: These may be used to treat nerve pain or other types of chronic pain.
  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may help you feel calm and relaxed. It may also decrease pain and help you sleep.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals and biphosphonates: Radiopharmaceuticals and biphosphonates help decrease cancer growth, pain, and inflammation that happens when cancer gets inside bones.
  • Anticonvulsant medicine: This medicine may be used to decrease chronic pain.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or pain specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Assistive devices:

A cane, walker, or crutches can help you move around and decrease your risk of falling. Ask your healthcare provider how to use these devices correctly.


  • Rest: Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Rehabilitation: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist can teach you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Exercise: Ask your healthcare provider or pain specialist about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise and activity may help to increase your strength and help control chronic pain.


  • Keep a pain diary: A pain diary may help you track pain cycles. Include things that make your pain worse or better. Bring your pain diary when you follow up with your healthcare provider or pain specialist.
  • Heat: Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.

Contact your healthcare provider or pain specialist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel more pain even after you take your medicines.
  • You feel so depressed that you cannot cope with your disease.
  • You feel very anxious or irritable after you take your medicines.
  • You have problems thinking clearly, are confused, or very sleepy.
  • You cannot control when you have a bowel movement or urinate.
  • You have sudden, severe chest pain or trouble breathing.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.