Pain is common in older adults. Pain can affect how you enjoy life and your relationships with others. Having stress or a low mood can make pain feel even worse.
Pain medicines can help manage pain but they don’t always get rid of all your pain. Finding what works best to manage your pain can help you enjoy life more. This may include pain medicines, stretching, strengthening exercises, and strategies to support sleep, comfort and well-being.
Pain medicines include:
Pain medicines work best when they are combined with other strategies to manage pain. These include being active, stretching, and lowering your stress. Each pain medicine works better for some types of pain than others.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually safer for older adults than other pain medicines. Topical pain medicines (also called topical analgesics) can also help. When common pain medicines don’t work to manage pain, your healthcare provider may suggest other medicines, such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants.
NSAIDs and opioids are stronger pain medicines that your healthcare provider may prescribe for certain medical conditions.
Some pain medicines can cause harmful side effects. This is why it’s important to regularly talk to your healthcare provider about your pain medicines. They can help you find the best dose and watch for harmful side effects.
Acetaminophen can be harmful if you take more than the recommended amount. It’s especially important to watch how much acetaminophen you take if you have liver problems or drink a lot of alcohol.
Long-term use of NSAIDs can cause:
Opioids Side effects of opioids include:
Anticonvulsants Side effects of anticonvulsants include:
Older adults have a higher risk of these side effects than people who are younger.
Antidepressants Side effects of antidepressants include:
It’s important to regularly talk to your healthcare provider and pharmacist about your medicines. Ask if you still need to take all of your medicines or if you can take a lower dose.
For more information about pain medicines, search the name of the medicine in the
It’s important to know that good pain management includes being active and paying attention to your mental wellness.
Complementary medicine therapies, such as massage therapy, meditation, and yoga, may also help manage pain.
Current as of: March 5, 2020
Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.