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6 Alternative Therapies for Seniors to Reduce Pain

We are well-versed in the common forms of therapy, including physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and therapy for behavioral and mental health. However, have you realized there are many other types of therapy that seniors can participate in to help maintain their physical and mental health? 

Pain management is one of the biggest challenges senior care communities face. Therefore, it behooves every long-term care center to invest heavily in pain management, as it is a significant component of clinical operations that can help improve quality of life and lead to more desirable patient outcomes.

For many seniors, long-standing chronic pain is not just another clinical category where the intervention becomes pharmaceutical. Historically, the primary solution has been medicalized pain management. While this option is essential for addressing acute pain conditions effectively, an ongoing reliance on these processes as the sole method of control may be environmentally problematic and unnecessary. But how effective are these options? The extent of clinical proof differs by surgery and disease. While not every individual will respond the same way, many discover that they can live without their pain medication, and others can reduce the quantity of narcotics still used.

Alternative Therapies in Senior Care

Alternative therapies are, by nature, a significant departure from the more conventional treatment modalities of pain management. Where conventional pharmaceutical treatments may be aimed at symptoms, many alternative practices aim to heal the whole—both spiritual and physical. This perspective is particularly important for our aging population because the health of seniors degrades with more than physical suffering alone.

1. Walking

Increasing walking and other ways to overcome chronic pain are straightforward. An activity like walking can help reduce the stiffness in your joints and is something you can do anywhere! It is free of charge and does not cost much time. Research has found that walking is good not only for reducing pain, boosting brain function, and alleviating mental health problems, but it can even help prevent sickness. This can significantly reduce the chronic pain you or your senior loved one may feel and improve overall health.

2. Yoga

Yoga, a Hindu spiritual practice, is a versatile and inclusive alternative therapy. It includes breath control, meditation, and body postures promoting physical health. Yoga, like Pilates, can also help with balance and muscle strength. Its benefits extend beyond the physical, contributing to a person’s overall happiness. With a wide range of styles available, yoga is a wonderful option for both beginners and advanced practitioners. The inclusivity of yoga is further highlighted by its availability in almost all continuing care retirement communities, making it perfect for beginners or anyone needing extra help.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, involves the insertion of skinny needles through your skin at specific points. This is a Qi-based energy practice designed to help restore equilibrium among the different organs of our body. Although somewhat unique sounding to most of us in the Western world, acupuncture is widely used as an alternative pain relief method. Several health professional bodies and government agencies have recognized it. Acupuncture increases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, making it a holistic approach for seniors. Acupuncture sessions can be completely customized based on the specific needs of seniors, taking into account their overall health and particular areas of pain or discomfort. This individualized strategy provides highly selective and efficient pain relief for seniors.

4. Tai Chi: A Martial Art for the Mind

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, along with Qigong, has evolved into a graceful form of exercise practiced worldwide. The practice includes deep, natural breathing and attention to the sensations of your body. It could help with lower back pain or knee or hip osteoarthritis. Tai Chi is one of the hundreds of Qigong (“chi gong”) exercises designed to create balance for the optimal functioning of body, mind, and spirit. Qigong has shown promising results for conditions like fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, chronic heart disease, and hypertension. It may also improve mood, balance, and daily activities.

5. Music Therapy

Music therapy is another one-of-a-kind path that can be incorporated for seniors to distract their minds from the pain and channel it towards relief, comfort, and emotional healing through the universal language of music. Certified music therapists personalize music sessions, including listening to, singing, or playing any type of music. Endorphins are produced when listening to music, triggering a natural response by the body and working as a painkiller. Rhythmic patterns help relax muscles, while nostalgic tunes may evoke happy memories, providing pleasure. These sessions offer a safe space for emotional expression and support.

6. Aquatic Therapy: Soft Rehab for the Elderly

Geriatric patients participate in physical exercises within temperature-controlled water, known as aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy. This technique relieves muscles, strengthens muscles, promotes joint movement, and decreases pain. Aquatic therapy is ideal for seniors, as it reduces joint pressure and inflammation and offers a safer environment for balance, mobility, and strength exercises. Research shows that aquatic workouts can incredibly benefit physical and mental well-being. Techniques include walking underwater, step workouts, resistance with water weights, and stretches using flotation belts. Florida seniors also have the advantage of using outdoor pools, making aquatic therapy available year-round.

How to Find Alternative Therapy for Seniors

As you can see, there are many ways for seniors to engage in positive health and wellness practices. However, you probably wonder how you can locate these opportunities. One of the best avenues for alternative therapy is through assisted living communities. These facilities typically have staff therapists who visit periodically and engage in various therapeutic approaches, such as pet therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and more.

The Bottom Line

Incorporating alternative therapies into senior care is essential for managing chronic pain and enhancing overall well-being. By exploring options such as walking, yoga, acupuncture, Tai Chi, music therapy, and aquatic therapy, seniors can find personalized and holistic approaches to pain relief. Assisted living communities often provide access to these therapies, making it easier for seniors to maintain their health and improve their quality of life.