Myths about pain and ageing

It is commonly believed that pain is an inevitable part of getting older and that there is nothing to do about it except grit your teeth and deal with it. However, this article challenges four commonly held myths regarding pain and aging and provides hope for those who fear they will have to endure pain as they get older.

The most prevailing myth is that pain is a natural consequence of getting older. It has been found that the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain actually declines with advancing age and that chronic pain occurs less frequently in older adults.

Another article by the same authors refutes the second myth that pain will worsen with advancing age. The study indicates that pain is intermittent and does not appear to worsen as you get older.

It is common to hear that one just has to bear the pain and remain stoic to help increase pain tolerance. However, studies indicate that continuing pain has significant consequences among older patients and that simply toughing it out does not increase pain tolerability.

Finally, it is thought that people commonly become addicted to prescription analgesics. However, studies indicate that the rate of addiction is low and that older people usually discontinue analgesic use after one or two prescriptions.

Similar to pain in younger people, there are many myths regarding pain which negatively impact on people and should be addressed during rehabilitation, among both younger and older adults.


Dr. Stephen Thielke is an Associate Professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences. His research investigates the effect of chronic pain on quality of life among older adults and debunking common pain myths in the elderly population.

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