Is Pain a Normal Part of Aging?

The short answer is no. Normal often gets confused with common, however. And pain, especially chronic pain, is shockingly all too common. Over 50 million Americans (that’s a little over 20% of adults in the United States) deal with daily pain classified as chronic or high-impact chronic, pain so severe that it inhibits their everyday life. Regretfully, the prevalence of pain sharply increases in people over 50 (1)

Unfortunately, there is no single reason why you experience pain—the underlying cause differs from person to person. Similarly, there is not a “magic bullet” solution. These are critical points to understand as many claims are made regarding the causes and cures for pain conditions. But, based on what we know from research, there is not a straightforward remedy for those suffering from body pain. 

However, there are some evidence-based techniques that may lead to less pain or even a return to some days that are pain-free. These steps broadly address some of the underlying reasons that most people experience chronic pain. 

What Causes Body Pain?

Most chronic pain comes from a prolonged response to an illness or injury or psychological factors such as depression and anxiety that lead to physical changes, often referred to as psychogenic pain. Sometimes people experience an overlap in these two underlying causes.

At the root of these two causes is your immune system’s interaction with your nervous system. The immune system is an intricate and incredibly capable system that, when working correctly, keeps your body safe from pathogens, helps you heal from injury, and even teaches your body to respond optimally to the food you eat! But a dysfunctional immune system can lead to uncontrolled inflammation. And chronic inflammation combined with nerve signaling equals pain (2).

There’s even a special term used for inflammation that becomes more common as we age—inflammaging. Inflammaging describes chronic, simmering inflammation linked to many age-associated diseases, including degenerative joint diseases, osteoarthritis, and even osteoporosis. It’s quite likely that frequent body pain for those over 50 falls into the category of issues caused by inflammaging (3)

Pain Solutions

Thankfully, there are targeted nutritional solutions to help lessen daily pain. This article focuses on specific foods and lifestyle changes, but remember that a colorful, whole food diet with optimal hydration is the foundation for long-term, pain-free health. 

Focus on Fish

The type of fatty acids present in fish are fantastic anti-inflammatories that can help with pain relief. Make sure your fish are wild-caught and low-toxicity. The Environmental Working Group offers a comprehensive guide to safe seafood (https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides/ewgs-consumer-guide-seafood) that we highly recommend. 

You can also ask your doctor about beginning an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, such as fish oil. But, as with fish, make sure you’re taking high-quality fish oil. Toxins present in some fish and fish oil can directly lead to more pain!

Powerful Pomegranate

Pomegranate fruits and juice are potent pain reducers. And they’re delicious! A great way to increase pomegranate in your diet is through a fizzy “mocktail” recipe, including carbonated water, fresh lime juice, and pomegranate juice. You may notice a marked reduction in daily pain with a nightly pomegranate drink. 

Breathe

Breathing techniques are commonly offered to relieve stress and decrease pain. Why? Because they work! Studies done on specific breath and meditation practices, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, have found that, for some people, they are the only solution to chronic pain (4). If you’re new to focusing on your breath, try a few minutes of “square breathing”:

  1. Breathe in for four seconds.
  2. Hold for four seconds.
  3. Exhale for four seconds.
  4. Hold for four seconds.

Hydrate

Drinking adequate amounts of clean, plain water is the simplest yet possibly the most effective way to decrease pain and increase the quality of life. Water lubricates joints, improves mental acuity, cushions and moistens the skin, relieves headaches, and increases circulation. Drink until your urine is a noticeably light yellow—more than that, and you may be drinking too much water.

 

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077564/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6386892/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5368208/