Description: Chronic pain affects over 20% of Americans,
according to a 2019
this study to understand the extent of this problem by age group and look at
pain management options.
Written by: Stephanie Parker
Nopphon_1987 // Shutterstock
The connection between age and chronic pain—and how to manage it
Chronic pain is a widespread issue affecting millions of Americans each
To better understand the impact of chronic pain among different age groups and how to manage it, Hydragun consulted 2019 data (released in 2020) by the CDC. To gather the data, the health organization conducted a study that surveyed how chronic pain affects adults by age group. Participants were asked if they experienced chronic pain and chronic pain that limited daily activities within the past three months. Although there are children younger than 18 who live with chronic pain, the survey did not include minors.
The CDC defines a person as having chronic pain when they answer “most days” or “every day” to the following survey question: “In the past three months, how often did you have pain? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?” Many things can contribute to chronic pain, whether an injury, break, or sprain, repeated stress on a particular area of the body, anxiety or depression, or other reasons. Of the 20.4% of American adults living with chronic pain, 7.4% said it prevents them from doing certain work or life activities. This can, among other things, cause isolation and depression.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to address chronic pain for people of all age groups. These options may include physical activities such as exercise, physical therapy, yoga, or stretching, as well as mindfulness activities like meditation, breathwork, and even hypnosis. Therapy can be very useful for pain associated with anxiety or depression, as can acupuncture, sessions with a professional masseuse, or even the use of at-home massage, massage guns, heating pads, or ice can help ease chronic pain. There are even strong pharmaceutical options such as opioids, but these can be dangerously addictive and researchers recommend these only as a last resort. Always be sure to consult with your doctor on which treatment plan is best for you.
Continue reading to learn the connection between age and chronic pain between all age groups.
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Chronic pain is a common issue for people of all ages: 20.4% of all
by the CDC reported experiencing chronic pain, with 7.4% experiencing
pain serious enough that it limited their daily activities. Women were
more likely to have chronic pain than men: 21.7% as compared to 19%
(nonbinary genders were not accounted for in the poll). Of the people
who do experience chronic pain, older age groups experience more chronic
pain than others. Another important finding from the CDC study was the
percentage of adults with chronic pain increased in
more rural areas.
fizkes // Shutterstock
Among people ages 18–29, chronic pain is
less common, with only 8.5% of the age group experiencing it and only 2.2%
experiencing pain strong enough to limit daily activities. Because not
many younger adults experience chronic pain, they often face the added
challenge that their
pain is “invisible”
to others, as they have no visible injury and people assume they are too
young to experience this pain.
Motortion Films // Shutterstock
Chronic pain becomes more common the more people age. Among adults
between the ages of 30 and 44,
experience chronic pain, and 4.4% experience pain bad enough that they
are unable to do all their daily activities. The causes of this pain are
varied. Chronic pain among adults can come from past injuries, such as a
sprain or break, and from psychological conditions, such as anxiety or
depression. However, the cause is not always known. When possible,
physical therapy and exercise can be good ways to manage pain among this
Motortion Films // Shutterstock
Adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have an
amount of chronic pain—25.8% among adults 45-64, as opposed to 20.4%
among all adults. Of those adults, 10.3% have high impact chronic pain
that prevents them from doing certain activities. In addition,
pharmaceutical treatment is usually
only partially effective
among older adults and comes with its own risks, making it important
to find other methods of pain reduction, such as physical activity,
meditation, and using
to set up one’s workspace for office workers.
9nong // Shutterstock
Adults 65 and over
Adults 65 and over experience the most chronic pain—30.8%
of this demographic has some sort of chronic pain, and 11.8% has pain
strong enough that it limits their participation in daily activities.
Chronic pain can be especially dire for this age group, as this group
can be socially isolated and are underrepresented in clinical trials
for pain treatment. And as older adults have a higher
risk of injuring
themselves from physical exercise, low-impact activities such as
can be beneficial for managing chronic pain in this group.