Common Myths About Pain and Older Adults

Myth #1: Chronic pain is an inevitable part of aging and nothing can be done about it.

Pain is not a normal part of aging, but is a signal that something is wrong. When pain occurs, it is important to evaluate and determine the underlying cause of the pain. Curing or treating the underlying cause will often eliminate the pain. Pain can also be managed with a wide variety of medicines.

Myth #2: To acknowledge pain is a sign of personal weakness.

Acknowledging pain is the first step toward treating the cause or getting the pain under control. There is no virtue in suffering pain when treatment is readily available. It is important to work with your health care provider and be honest about your level of pain so that the proper treatment can be provided.

Myth #3: Chronic pain always indicates the presence of a serious disease.

Serious disease can sometimes be accompanied by pain, but pain has many possible causes. The cause of chronic pain may be something that can be treated or cured. It is important to seek medical help when pain occurs so that the cause of the pain can be identified.

Myth #4: Addiction to narcotic pain medications is a common problem.

Most people who use pain medications under the supervision of their doctor never become addicted. Medications known as opioids – such as morphine and oxycodone – do have the potential to cause addiction. People who are addicted are obsessed with taking the drug against medical advice despite the fact that it is having harmful effects on their physical, mental, or social health.

Myth #5: Morphine and other narcotics are given only to people who are about to die.

Morphine and other narcotics can be helpful for people in hospice care at the end of life, but they are also effective for other painful conditions as well. These medicines may be used to control acute pain following surgery, for example.

Get more information from the National Pain Foundation on pain in older adults.