Understanding the Differences between Chronic & Acute Pain

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Pain is either chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term). For seniors, each form of pain can have a direct impact on their immediate and overall quality of life. For caregivers, knowing which levels of pain their aging loved ones are experiencing can help with addressing their discomfort. Understanding the differences between chronic and acute pain can also help caregivers for seniors with conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s disease who may have difficulty verbalizing their pain.

By making positive lifestyle choices, especially eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly, many older adults can prevent or delay age-related conditions that cause pain and discomfort. Seniors who want to remain healthy as they age can benefit in a variety of ways when they receive professional in-home care. Align Home Care Services is here to help your loved one accomplish daily tasks, prevent illness, and focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Acute Pain

Usually sharp in nature, acute pain can also be mild and intermittent. Some seniors experience acute pain that’s aggravated by certain movements, as is often the case with conditions like disc degeneration and spinal stenosis. After the source of the initial pain is determined and treated, discomfort is frequently minimized to the point where it’s manageable or goes away completely. Acute pain in seniors may stem from:

  • Recent surgery (pain usually goes away during the healing process) 
  • Dental work or untreated dental issues 
  • Burns or cuts 
  • Broken bones

Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality elder care. Portland families trust Align Home Care Services to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.

Chronic Pain

Acute pain that persists may become chronic pain, defined as pain lasting longer than six months. Chronic pain in seniors may result in related emotional stress or depression, which can in turn contribute to lingering discomfort. It’s more likely to affect quality of life in seniors due to changes in activity because of limited mobility or an increased fear of falling or reinjury. Chronic pain in seniors can include: 

  • Lower back pain 
  • Neurogenic pain (pain from nerve damage) 
  • Psychogenic pain (pain related to mental, emotional, or behavioral factors) 
  • Arthritis 

Sudden, sharp pain is treated by determining what caused the sudden discomfort. The goal with mild and chronic pain is effective management, typically involving over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, surgery (often a last resort due to the risk of increased complications with age), or nontraditional remedies like acupuncture. 

Severe pain can make it difficult for aging adults to handle the basic activities of daily living on their own. If you’re the primary family caregiver for a senior loved one living in Portland, live-in care is available if your loved one’s health has become too difficult to manage without professional expertise. At Align Home Care Services, we take measures to help seniors prevent illness and injury by assisting with exercise and mobility, preparing nutritious meals, helping with bathing and other personal hygiene tasks, and much more. To learn about our premier in-home care plans and how they can help your loved one, give us a call at (207) 835-3490 today. 


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