For most of us, avoiding pain is paramount to enjoying the quality of life. When we find ourselves in pain – the first response is to discover the cause, alleviate the source and eliminate the pain. Staying out of pain is a no-brainer – how else can we enjoy the quality of the pleasures we have spent so much of our time arranging for ourselves?
Yet for some reason – we remain largely unaware of how difficult it can be for our vulnerable elders to keep their frail bodies out of the realm of excruciating pain! Mostly it seems to be an internal switch very similar to the one that flips for women who have just gone through natural child birth – if the pain and anguish involved were to remain in the forefront of the mind – how many children would she have?
If we truly understood how challenging and difficult the aches and pains of aging really are – what would we do differently? What precautions would we take to help keep ourselves out of bouts of screaming pain?
How many of you have heard of the compression fracture?
Compression fractures come with the curvature of the back. It becomes more pronounced as we age and osteoporosis begins to set in.
Think about it – compression is when the bones press against each other so severely, a fracture occurs. The pain is excruciating! When osteoporosis is part of the mix of diagnosis that an elder receives – compression fracture is likely on the horizon. Heavy pain medications are often needed – which leads to additional forgetfulness and confusion. How helpful, right?
Dr. Amy Shaw works as an osteopath across from Memorial Hospital. Her expertise is invaluable when it comes to bone fractures in elders. When I asked Dr. Shaw what she had to say to anyone with a compression fracture – this is what she said;
“The best approach is to strengthen the muscles in the back, along the spine. Physical therapy is ideal for getting this right.” Her advice is not to take a pain medication routinely as compression fractures heal on their own – and the pain will resolve as the healing fracture resolves. This means if you or your elder are experiencing this pain – “you can only know how well it is healing if you are taking your pain medication as-needed only.”
Sound advice when we face so many trials in our culture around the use and over-use of pain medication. With all of the difficulties in diagnosis and treatment for pain – it seems the smartest thing to do is understand how to stay out of it!
Do not lift anything! A compression fracture can be caused by something as simple as trying to make a bed. We often bend forward to grab blankets and pillows and pull them toward us while doing this task. NO, no, no says Dr. Shaw. Do not lift anything anymore if you have a compression fracture or are in any danger of getting one. Allow your helper, children, spouse or someone else to take over these kinds of tasks.
How to Stay Out of Pain:
Enter the back whisperer. If we learn how to strengthen the muscles along the spine properly – we are far more likely to avoid back pain and compression fractures. Research has shown that strengthening the muscles around any pain point will go far to lift the pain out of that region as the strengthened muscles then increase in size and literally lift tissue off the inflamed pain point – giving it the opportunity to calm down and resolve.
This can include knees, shoulders and elbows. I think the point is clear. Exercise is one of the greatest pathways out of pain we have available. Aging makes this more difficult to do. Making sure we have a routine that will serve to keep the body strong and the muscles well-tuned around our major weak areas cannot be stressed enough.
In an age of medication and treatment – it is ironic that we seem to have the mandate to keep our own body in the shape it needs to be now – in order to better navigate the body into the depths of our aging process. Excruciating pain is no joke. We know this. Helping to support our elders in staying out of this scope of pain – is essential if enjoying any of life’s quality is going to be possible.
Please listen to your pain – and to the requests to alleviate pain if it is coming from your loved one.
Resources for pain management:
Back Pain from Compression fracture/Osteoporosis:
Dr. Amy Shaw
121 Sotoyome Street
Re-evaluation for Pain Management:
St. Joseph’s: 707-206-9124
In Home Nursing Programs:
Sutter Home Health:
St. Joseph’s Home Health: 707-206-9124
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.