Pain Management for Seniors: 5 Essential Non-Opioid Tips

Mastering pain management without relying on opioids can significantly enhance the quality of life for seniors. Bothersome aches and pains are par for the course as we age, but following the key strategies outlined below can offer relief and put you on a path to maintaining an active and fulfilling lifestyle. Embracing these methods can also improve well-being and independence — essential for seniors navigating the complexities of pain management.

The Importance of Non-Opioid Pain Management for Seniors

As you age, managing pain effectively and safely can become a significant concern. A crucial aspect of this journey is understanding why non-opioid options are worth considering.

Rising Concerns Over Opioid Use

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living, the use of opioids to manage pain comes with heightened risks like dependency. As you grow older, your body is more susceptible to the addictive properties of opioids. This risk can be compounded by the fact that aging individuals may already be managing multiple health conditions with various medications, which could increase the risk of adverse drug interactions and dependency.

Moreover, the side effects associated with opioid use can be particularly severe for older adults. These may include drowsiness, confusion, constipation and, in some cases, “death, hospitalization, and use of emergency departments.” These side effects are discomforting and can significantly impair a senior’s quality of life, making daily activities and self-care more challenging.

Tip 1 – Identify Non-Opioid Pain Relief Methods

According to a study published in the Ochsner Journal, “Pain may be underreported as some elderly patients incorrectly believe that pain is a normal process of aging. A comprehensive pain assessment includes a thorough medical history and physical examination, a review of systems and pertinent laboratory results, imaging studies, and diagnostic tests. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended to investigate all possible options for optimal management, including pharmacotherapy, interventional procedures, physical rehabilitation and psychological support.”

Exploring a Range of Alternatives

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines state that “Opioids should be used only when benefits for pain and function are expected to outweigh risks.” To manage chronic pain, the CDC recommends non-opioid treatment as a first-line defense.


It is important to note that not every non-opioid pain management option will be suitable for everyone. Before beginning any pain-relief regimen, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider for guidance. 


  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications: Medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be effective for mild to moderate pain and are generally well-tolerated by seniors.


  1. Topical Treatments: Creams, gels and patches that contain pain-relieving substances can be applied directly to the skin, providing localized relief with minimal systemic effects.


  1. Herbal Remedies and Supplements: Natural products like turmeric, ginger and omega-3 supplements have anti-inflammatory properties that help manage pain.


  1. CBD Products: Cannabidiol (CBD), derived from the cannabis plant, is gaining popularity for its potential in pain relief without the psychoactive effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the primary compound found in cannabis plants that is responsible for the ‘high’ that is often associated with marijuana use, but most CBD products do not contain this particular compound 


A study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research concluded, “CBD use was associated with improvements in pain (83%), physical function (66%), and sleep quality (66%).”


  1. Joint Injections: Steroid and homeopathic anti-inflammatory injections are particularly effective in relieving and improving joint function.


 Hyaluronic Acid (HA) injections lubricate the knee joint, add a protective layer to the cartilage and soothe pain, especially during joint movement.


A study published by the Pharmacy Times found that “HA treatment may help reduce the use of other pain medications such as steroids, NSAIDs and opioids.”


  1. Trigger Point Injections: These injections are tailored to address specific areas of discomfort and aid in muscle relaxation. Injections may include cortisone and homeopathic alternatives to relax spasming muscles. 

Tailoring to Individual Needs

When considering these non-opioid pain-management methods, take into account your overall health, potential interactions with existing medications and personal preferences. What works for one individual may not be suitable for another. 


For example, a senior with digestive issues might prefer topical treatments over oral medications. It’s crucial to follow dosage instructions and consult with healthcare professionals before starting any new treatment — especially when considering herbal supplements or CBD products.

Tip 2 – Incorporate Physical Activity and Exercise

A study published in BMC Geriatrics concluded, “An eight-week physical activity and education program for pre-frail older adults with chronic pain, compared with usual care, could be effective to improve quality of life after the intervention and after three-months follow-up.”


Below are some practical tips on incorporating gentle physical activities into your daily routine, highlighting their benefits in pain relief and overall well-being.

pain management for seniors: exercise

The Benefits of Gentle Exercise

Regular physical activity is beneficial not just for physical health but also for mental well-being. Gentle exercises,  like walking, swimming or yoga, can significantly improve strength, flexibility and balance — a crucial part of pain management for seniors and injury prevention. Additionally, exercise helps release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which can reduce pain perception.

Adapting Exercises to Individual Needs

Each senior has different physical capabilities and limitations, so activities should be tailored to match individual fitness levels and health conditions. For instance, those with arthritis might find water aerobics more comfortable than walking, as the buoyancy of water reduces stress on the joints.


  1. Walking: A simple and effective way to stay active, walking can be easily adjusted to fit one’s fitness level. Walking promotes cardiovascular health and joint mobility.


  1. Yoga and Tai Chi: These low-impact exercises improve balance, flexibility and muscle strength. They also offer the added benefit of stress reduction and mental relaxation.


  1. Stretching: Regular stretching can help maintain flexibility, reduce stiffness and alleviate pain. It can also be done at home and adjusted to comfort levels.

Establishing Routine

Consistency is critical to reaping the benefits of physical activity. Aim to establish a routine that fits into daily life. Even short bouts of exercise, if done regularly, can yield significant health benefits.

Consulting with Professionals

Before starting any new exercise regimen, consult with trusted healthcare professionals, especially if you have existing health conditions. A physical therapist or a fitness instructor experienced in working with seniors can also provide valuable guidance and tailor a program to individual needs.

Tip 3 – Utilize Alternative Therapies

The conclusion of a study published in the Anesthesia & Analgesia Journal stated, “In the current opioid crisis era, many integrative medical therapies can be used as complements to mainstream medicine to address pain and reduce opioid abuse and addiction-related disease.” 


It also found that there is substantial supportive evidence for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic pain. It also pointed to promising initial findings regarding the effectiveness of relaxation methods, massage therapy and spinal manipulation (aka chiropractic care). 

Acupuncture: An Ancient Practice for Modern Pain Relief

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into specific points of the body. It is believed to rebalance the body’s energy flow and stimulate natural healing processes. Acupuncture may help with the following:

  • Reducing chronic pain, including arthritis and neuropathic pain.
  • Improving mobility and reducing stiffness.
  • Enhancing overall well-being and reducing stress.

Massage Therapy: More Than Just Relaxation

Massage therapy involves manipulating the muscles and soft tissues of the body and can be an excellent tool for pain management for seniors. Benefits include:

  • Alleviating muscle tension and stiffness.
  • Improving circulation and joint mobility.
  • Reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis and other chronic conditions.
  • Providing relaxation and reducing anxiety can indirectly help in pain management.

Chiropractic Care: Aligning the Body for Pain Relief

Chiropractic care uses hands-on spinal manipulation and other techniques to properly align the body’s musculoskeletal structure. This approach can help with the following:


  • Relieving back and neck pain.
  • Improving joint mobility and function.
  • Reducing reliance on pain medication.
  • Enhancing overall physical function and posture.

Safety and Considerations

While alternative therapies can be highly effective, seniors must approach them cautiously. The tips below can help you engage in these methods safely.


  • Ensure that the practitioners are certified and experienced, particularly in working with seniors.
  • Discuss any existing health conditions and concerns with the therapist before starting treatment.
  • Monitor how your body responds to the therapy and communicate any discomfort.


You can also combine these therapies with other methods for pain management for seniors for a more holistic approach. For instance, pairing regular massage therapy with gentle exercises can relieve pain and improve overall mobility.

pain management for seniors: diet management

Tip 4 – Understand the Role of Diet and Nutrition

What you eat can profoundly impact your health, including how you experience and manage pain. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine reported that “Evidence from a number of recent systematic reviews shows that optimizing diet quality and incorporating foods containing anti-inflammatory nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, long chain and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and fiber leads to a reduction in pain severity and interference.” 

Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Nature’s Pain Relievers

Chronic pain is often associated with inflammation in the body, so anti-inflammatory foods in the diet can help reduce this inflammation and, consequently, the associated pain. Some essential anti-inflammatory foods include:


Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as in flaxseeds and walnuts, omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale and collard greens are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that can help combat inflammation.

Berries: Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and pain.

Turmeric and Ginger: These spices are renowned for their anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, is particularly effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

Hydration: A Simple, Effective Tool

Proper hydration is crucial for overall health and can impact pain levels. Dehydration can exacerbate chronic pain, so drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day is imperative, especially as you age.

Calcium and Vitamin D: For Bone Health

Calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens and fortified foods, and adequate Vitamin D, found in fatty fish, egg yolks and sunshine, are essential for bone health. 

Avoiding Foods That May Worsen Pain

Be cautious of foods high in sugar, trans fats and certain preservatives that can increase inflammation and pain.

Personalized Nutrition Plans

Every individual’s body reacts differently to different foods. Seniors can work with nutritionists or dietitians to develop personalized eating plans that cater to specific health needs, dietary preferences and pain management goals.

Tip 5 – Seek Personalized Medical Advice

Each individual’s experience with pain is unique, and what works for one person may not be effective for another. It’s important to consult with qualified healthcare professionals to develop a plan for pain management for seniors tailored to your specific needs and conditions.


Partnering with Healthcare Providers

Creating a successful pain management plan for the elderly involves collaborating with healthcare professionals such as primary care physicians, pain specialists, physical therapists and pharmacists.

Communicating Effectively About Pain

Be prepared to discuss the following:


  • The nature and intensity of the pain.
  • How does the pain impact daily activities and quality of life?
  • Any previous treatments or medications used for pain and their effectiveness.
  • Concerns about opioid use and preference for non-opioid options.

Regular Reviews and Adjustments

It’s essential to review and adjust your pain management plan as needed. What might work initially may need to be revised as you continue to age, health and pain levels change.

Understanding Medications and Treatments

Seek to understand any medications or treatments prescribed thoroughly. This includes knowing how to take them correctly, understanding potential side effects and how they interact with other medicines.

The Importance of a Holistic Approach

Effective pain management for seniors often requires a holistic approach, addressing not just the physical aspects of pain but also the emotional and psychological impacts. Healthcare providers can integrate strategies such as stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices into their overall pain management plan.

Non-Opioid Pain Management for Seniors: Success Stories

The journey of the elderly’s managing pain is deeply personal and challenging. Real-life stories of people who have walked this path can be inspiring and provide tangible evidence of the effectiveness of alternative pain management strategies. Below, hear from real clients who have found pain relief through our services:


“After going to several ‘traditional’ doctors and specialists, I was thrilled to finally find some relief at Turning Point Wellness. Their therapies not only helped with pain, but also my mood and energy levels! Wish I had found them sooner!” -Dave Thomas


“The 4Relief CBD Rich Cream offered by Turning Point Wellness is amazing! The pain from a pinched nerve in my neck was IMMEDIATELY relieved. I now use it routinely for pain relief. Excellent product.” -Robin Thomas


“I was a client at Turning Point Wellness Center and received an injection into my foot for chronic pain from a Morton’s neuroma.  David was extremely professional and his skill injecting my foot was amazing.  Since my treatment I have a lot less pain in my foot and it has definitely cut down on the inflammation I was experiencing.  This wellness center is state of the art and the owners are very professional.  I’d highly recommend Turning Point for pain management.” -Shelley West


Ease Your Joint and Muscle Pain at Turning Point Wellness Center

At Turning Point Wellness Center, we understand seniors’ unique challenges in managing pain. Our comprehensive approach begins with a thorough assessment, leading to a personalized plan that combines traditional and innovative therapies for non-opioid pain management. At Turning Point Wellness Center, our range of specialized services caters to the diverse pain management needs of seniors.


Here’s an overview of what we offer:

Electromyography (EMG) involves inserting an electrode into the muscle to measure activity during muscle contractions and placing flat electrodes on the skin to stimulate the nerves. The response allows our physicians to accurately determine the most effective treatment for alleviating pain.

Trigger Point Injections: We provide treatments, including cortisone and homeopathic alternatives, to relax spasming muscles across the body. 

Knee Injections: HA lubricates the knee joint, adds a protective layer to the cartilage, and soothes pain, especially during joint movement.

Joint Injections: These are particularly effective in providing relief and improving joint function.

Topical Creams and Oils: These products help decrease pain and help patients manage the symptoms of this complex disorder more effectively.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain or know someone who is, explore our services further and see how we can assist in enhancing your quality of life. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings and how we can tailor them to your pain management needs.