Studies show that individuals who experience chronic pain are more likely to have fallen in the last 12 months, and are more likely to fall again in the future. Some studies have shown that the use of pain medication and other treatments can provide some protection against falls in patients with chronic pain, and therefore, pain appears to be a “modifiable risk factor” for falls. The reduction of pain appears to not only improve people’s quality of life, but also reduces their risk of falls.
Several factors that account for the risk of falls among chronic pain patients, include:
- Loss of movement and reflexes
- Medication side effects
- Age-related changes
- Sensory losses
The Reality of Pain
- All pain is real: Pain is not imaginary. It is whatever the person in pain is experiencing.
- Chronic pain is complex: Ongoing pain can affect all aspects of your life, including your relationships with others. Pain itself can be affected by many things, such as hunger, activity, sleep, mood, and stress.
- Chronic pain is common: Diabetes is one of the more common medical conditions, but estimates are that five times more people suffer from pain than from diabetes.
As you know, the management of chronic pain and reduction of fall risk can feel like a balancing act! Effective pain management aims to reduce your level of pain while increasing your quality of life, without increasing your fall risk.
Pain management at home has several general aspects:
- Assessment: Your home health care team will gather information on your pain and other conditions that may affect it. The team will also help you evaluate your home and lifestyle for safety risks to limit the potential for a fall.
- Management plan: You, your physician and your home health care team will work together to create a plan based on your goals. Staying safe and accident-free will be a top priority.
- Follow-up: Your home health care team will evaluate the plan and see how well interventions and strategies are working for you, then work with your physician to make changes as needed.
- Self-help activities: Effective pain management often involves your willingness to help yourself. It’s very important that you take an active approach to managing your pain.
- Persistence: Chronic pain management requires your persistence to work to find the right approach for you. It will mean learning new skills and relying on inner strength that you may not have realized you have! Your home health care team will be with you all the way!
Combining Techniques and Approaches
Studies show that the most effective pain management with fall risk safety as an equal priority comes from combining multiple techniques and approaches. You will need to take into account your whole person – mind, body and spirit – when looking at the approach that is best for you. Chronic pain can take all sorts of turns, and the approach that works one day may not work the next, so it’s good to regularly evaluate what works and what doesn’t work. Effective pain management includes the following three areas.
- Medical treatments: These include: injections, tens unit, medication and physical therapy.
- Self-care: This is probably the most important component of pain management, because often it makes other treatments more effective. Self-care techniques are often free and you can do them on your own. Examples include stretching, reading, exercise and stress reduction.
- The mind-body connection: Examples include meditation and counseling.
Tracking Your Pain
Pain can be affected by many things in your life, and it’s different for everyone. Your home health care team records a pain snapshot at each visit, but only you can track it day by day to discover patterns and help you identify what works and what doesn’t. Tracking your pain can also help you identify what triggers your pain. Once you have that information, you can avoid the triggers, change them, or plan ahead for them if they’re unavoidable. Tracking your pain will also provide insight into which self-care activities are the best pain relievers. Your home health care team can get you started with a pain journal that will help you record your pain, the measures you have taken to reduce the pain, and the results.
If pain and fall risk have made you inactive and your life feels restricted, try these tips:
- Ask your physician or physical therapist to evaluate your mobility and suggest an activity plan. You may be surprised. Some activities you’re nervous about may be just fine for you! Your physical and occupational therapist can help you perform the activities safely. The home health care team can also recommend assistive devices to increase your activity and independence.
- Start gradually and stretch yourself a bit.
- Choose one or two activities you’d like to be able to do and make that your goal. For example, taking a walk, sitting at a desk to work for a period of time, or completing some housework or cooking.
- Decide how long you can do the activity: You might only be able to walk for 10 minutes to start.
- Do your activity both on good and bad days.
- Add a bit more time each week. For example, the next week, walk for 12 minutes daily.
- Find new ways to be active: If an activity you used to enjoy is no longer possible, find an alternative. A gym workout may no longer be suitable for you, but you can try gentle movements in a swimming pool or a tai chi class. These activities can help improve your balance, while reducing your fall risk.
- Give yourself rewards. Find healthy ways to reward yourself when you meet your goals.
- Remember to rest. It can help to schedule periods of rest and downtime into your day. Treat them as appointments so you don’t overlook rest.
For more helpful tips, or to schedule a free in-home consultation to see how our in-home care in Paradise Valley, AZ and the surrounding area can help improve health and quality of life for yourself or a senior you love, contact Nightingale Homecare at (602) 504-1555.