Dr Rodrigo Megale is a Brazilian physician specialising in geriatrics , graduated from Medical School (UFMG) in 2002, with advanced training in Internal Medicine (2002-2004) followed by Geriatrics (2004-2006) through accredited residency programs (MEC). He has Masters Degree in Public Health (Epidemiology) from Fiocruz and is, currently, undertaking his PhD in The University of Sydney - Medical School.
It is usual among older adults to think that musculoskeletal pain is a benign symptom related to the “wear and tear” of ageing. If you are in your 70s or 80s, you probably have already heard from health professionals that chronic pain is something that you should get used to, and that it is a very common age-related condition. I, myself, have said that to many of my patients. It turns out that having chronic or persistent musculoskeletal pain is not as benign as it was thought to be.
Several studies have shown an association between chronic pain and frailty, a pre-disability condition, clinically characterised by weight loss, exhaustion, weakness, slowness and low physical activity. Those who have been experiencing bothersome joint or low back pain might be worried at this moment; however, there is no reason for that. If your pain is not interfering in your daily living activities, and your doctor has already assessed it in order to rule out any serious condition, there are some tips that can help you cope with your symptoms.
The first important thing that you need to know about chronic pain is that, in many cases, the source of pain is not only joint inflammation, cartilage damage or disc degeneration/ protrusion. Actually, it seems that our brains play a very important role in this condition. Chronic pain usually involves a problem in the so called “descending inhibitory pathway”, which is part of your body’s pain management system, and it is controlled by your brain. That is probably why some patients report less pain when they are surrounded by loved ones or when they are on a pleasant trip. Our brain is capable of modulating the pain we feel. If you focus on your pain and drive all your attention towards your suffering, your behaviour could probably “enhance” your pain. On the other hand, if you drive your attention away from your suffering and try to focus on positive aspects of your life, there is a reasonable chance of achieving pain improvement.