Skip to Content

Pain Management Older Adults


Pain in older adults

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. If pain is not treated, it can decrease your appetite, sleep, and energy. It can also affect your mood and your relationships with others.

Contact your healthcare provider or pain specialist if:

  • Your pain gets worse or you have new pain.
  • You have new symptoms, such as numbness or tingling.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Narcotics are used for moderate to severe pain. At first, your healthcare provider may give you a low dose. The dose will slowly be increased until you reach the best dose for your pain. Do not stop taking narcotics without contacting your healthcare provider.
  • 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 or 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.


  • Keep a pain diary to 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 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 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.
  • Exercise can help improve movement and strength, and decrease pain. Your healthcare provider will help you find exercise programs that are right for your type of pain.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you gain control over your pain and how you react to it. Your healthcare provider may have you get treatment from a therapist.
  • Self-management programs give you education about pain and the effect it can have on your life. The programs also teach coping techniques, such as relaxation and communication.

For more information:

  • American Chronic Pain Association
    PO Box 850
    Rocklin , CA 95677
    Phone: 1- 800 - 533-3231
    Web Address:

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.