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How Can We Manage Pain as We Age?

Written by Sarah Leoniuk, Digital Marketing Coordinator with integratedliving

Our expert team reveal the ways they help those living with chronic pain.


Pain comes in many forms. Acute, chronic, dull, sharp, unbearable, frustrating. It is a harsh fact of life, but too many people suffer with ongoing pain without realising there is support available.

Here, our highly skilled nurses, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists share the multitude of ways they help senior clients alleviate and manage pain. They also offer helpful tips for managing your own pain.

Nursing – how can it help with pain?

We asked a couple of our outstanding Registered Nurses (RN) how they help clients deal with pain.

RN Jan said:      

  • Nurses practice observation – where is the pain, where are the signs and symptoms. Look for heat, redness, stiffness and infection.
  • We take a comprehensive assessment of the person’s history.
  • We assess pain by filling out a pain scale assessment and regularly updating it.
  • We ensure pain medication is taken correctly and safely, and document results.
  • We discuss with the person alternate therapies with which pain could be managed.
  • We provide regular updates to a client’s GP.
  • We communicate and listen to the person in pain is important to establish the most effective way to manage their pain.

RN Bec added:

  • Nurses support with pain by assessing pain levels by type, severity, location, cause, as part of a holistic nursing assessment.
  • We advocate for clients by escalating concerns and assessment outcomes to their doctors.
  • We ensure that pain medications are managed effectively and as prescribed by their doctors.
  • We assist clients with applying heat, ice, positioning, and so forth, depending on type and cause of pain and recommendations.

What are some tips you have for people when managing their own pain?


RN Jan said:

  • Pain relief medication.
  • Physical therapies, such as massage, hydrotherapy, exercise, heat/cold packs.
  • Psychological therapies: relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness.
  • Mind and body techniques, including acupuncture.
  • Community support groups.

RN Bec added:

  • Understanding acute pain vs chronic pain. Chronic pain is persistent pain lasting for three months or more. Acute pain develops quickly, such as an injury, and doesn’t usually last for long.
  • Using prescribed analgesia as directed by the doctor, such as Panadol taken as directed and not missing doses as it helps to create a base line of pain relief.
  • Exploring some alternative therapies, including massage, acupuncture, TENS and relaxation.

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Occupational Therapy – how can it help with pain?

We asked Occupational Therapist (OT) Emma to tell us how an OT can help people manage their pain, she said:

  • OTs can assist with managing acute and chronic pain to support comfortable engagement with everyday activities and emotional wellbeing.
  • They focus on supporting activity participation by implementing ways to avoid triggering the exacerbation of pain, or returning to activity after an event has exacerbated the pain. This can include providing education on activity adaptation regarding prioritising, planning and pacing to maximise participation in everyday activities.
  • OTs can also prescribe environmental accommodations to adapt to physical needs due to pain. This is done through ergonomically designed equipment and home modifications. Clients can also be empowered to self-monitor and self-regulate pain through OT training in psycho-somatic techniques such as relaxation and mindfulness and manual handling techniques.

What are some tips for people when managing their own pain?


Some common tips regarding managing pain:

  • If you are taking medication, use medication wisely and proactively before pain becomes uncontrolled.
  • Know your pain, what makes it worse or better and never be afraid to ask for more information from your health professionals.
  • Try to engage in gentle and natural movements everyday within your pain threshold to prevent secondary stiffness or muscle weakness. Activities such as yoga, Tai Chi or swimming might be useful.
  • Be kind to yourself and others around you as stress can increase sensitivity to pain.
  • Give yourself permission to relax and rest as needed.
  • Celebrate your small victories, set achievable goals and don’t sweat the setbacks.

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Exercise Physiology – how can it help with pain?


When we asked Senior Manager Wellness Business Georgia and her team of exercise physiologists (EPs), including Meaghan, how they can help people manage their pain, they said:

  • EPs can provide education on how appropriate exercises can assist with improving pain and not making pain worse.
  • Appropriate movement is better for your pain than sitting.
  • All pain is real – you can have pain without injury and injury without pain. An EP can assist with education around this and what it means for the individual.
  • Your pain can subside with distractions, EPs can help people discover this.
  • Different people have different responses to the same pathology. For example, two people with the same severity of osteo-arthritis in their knee can have two different pain responses.
  • We have the clinical knowledge and experience to safely prescribe suitable exercises for people considering their individual and unique situation. There are no cookie-cutter approaches with our EPs.

What are some of the benefits of exercise for those with pain?

  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased pain tolerance and pain desensitisation
  • Improved immune function

What type of exercise and how much should I do?

  • Small amounts of exercise can be of benefit.
  • The most enjoyable exercise will be the most effective for you.
  • Enjoy a wide range of exercises that are suitable. These may include walking, swimming, weight training, Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi.
  • Remember to start gradually and pace yourself.
  • Performing some exercise at moderate intensity. Higher intensity exercise is also beneficial, but it is highly recommended to seek guidance from a health professional before starting.

An EP can assist those experiencing chronic pain to start exercise, or those who may need help with tailoring exercises to best suit their individual needs and goals. They are able to assess what you can safely do, so that they can establish and guide you through an exercise program that is individualised for you and your goals.

Meaghan referred to Exercise Right’s eBook on Exercising for Persistent Pain.

Find out more information on pain and how we can help you manage here:

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