On the night of March 28, 1986, Howard Heit's car was struck in a head-on collision. He left the scene of the serious crash thinking how lucky he was that he hadn't been hurt. "And then four to six weeks later, I started noticing twitches in the muscles of my neck and upper back. These progressed to marked spasms of my neck, shoulders, and upper back," he recalls.
The pain never ceased. All day, every day it plagued him. It became difficult for him to walk -- and almost impossible for him to work...
Some older people hold back from talking about pain. Or they may have trouble expressing it if they have dementia or have had a stroke. But if pain isn't treated, a senior may have trouble with daily activities, lose independence, and become depressed.
Ask the person you're caring for if he is in pain. Signs include:
Crying or moaning
Stiffness, clenched fists, knitted eyebrows
Groaning when moved
If the person is unable to tell you if they’re in pain, you may need to have a doctor or therapist do an exam, including a check for bedsores.
Soothe With Heat
A warm shower or bath, hot water bottle, or warm cloth can help relax muscles and ease muscle spasms. A heating pad with an automatic off switch is a better option than a regular heating pad, which can burn skin if left on too long. Be careful with microwavable heating pads, these can have hotspots that burn. Apply heat to the sore area 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours. A paraffin wax bath can also soothe sore joints.
Cold can soothe pain, especially on an area that is inflamed or swelling. Try a cool cloth, cold pack, cold compression wrap, or ice massage. To make an ice pack, put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Check with a doctor about how long to apply cold.
Slow, quiet breathing helps relax the body and mind and ease pain. Try showing him how to do it first: Lie or sit with one hand on your belly and take a deep, slow breath. Imagine filling a balloon in your belly with air. Then breathe out, as if you're letting all the air out of the balloon. Imagine breathing out all tension or thoughts that keep you from relaxing. Aim for only about six long, deep breaths a minute. You can find other relaxation methods online or in audiotapes or books.
If he has lung problems, talk to his doctor about the best breathing exercises for him.