The Problem of Pain in Alzheimer’s Patients

Posted on October 29th, 2019 by Orthopaedic Specialty Group

Pain in Patients: A Silent Struggle

Some of the most common struggles of Alzheimer’s Disease include memory loss and confusion, but a hidden struggle that many patients don’t talk about is the pain they experience. While patients with Alzheimer’s do feel pain, they often cannot speak to anyone about it, and it goes untreated.

Studies on Brain Activity

Researchers have worked to prove that those suffering from Alzheimer’s may experience pain more powerfully than other adults. While retention is a major symptom of the disease, these patients can still perceive and process pain — most often by themselves. A study of 14 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s and 15 volunteers without the disease in Australia measured brain activity and pain channels through MRI scans. 

The study demonstrated that pain activity lasted longer in Alzheimer’s patients. These patients were all still able to communicate the pain of having a device pressed to their thumbs to test weak and moderate pain. However, in patients that are not able to communicate, the pain may be more distressing.

Recognizing Pain in Your Loved Ones

Typically, it’s assumed that if a person isn’t communicating their pain, they may not be experiencing it. This is not the case with Alzheimer’s patients.

 If they’re not able to communicate their pain to you, you may be wondering how to recognize pain in a loved one living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Caregivers spend a great deal of time with the person they’re caring for and may be able to pick up on instances of discomfort. This can be done by watching facial expressions and movements of your loved ones when they’re not in pain, such as during sleep. 

These expressions can act as a baseline to indicate times where there may appear to be a different emotion occurring, such as agitation or pain. Altered eye contact or a grimacing expression can be the top ways to notice if your patient is in pain.

If your loved one suffers from a fall or bone or muscle injury, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. At Orthopaedic Speciality Group, we’re prepared to care for any injuries your loved one may experience. Contact us today to set up an appointment.