Is your pain related to your age?

According to the British Pain Society, pain is a relatively common experience during life and we’re all likely to experience it at one time or another.

However, some of the conditions that cause pain may change as you get older:

20s and 30s

Migraine: More than 10 million people in the UK get headaches regularly, though most aren’t serious and are easily treated. Migraine is just one type of headache along with tension and cluster headaches. And according to the Migraine Trust, at least 90 percent of people with migraine experience a first attack before the age of 40.

The good news is that migraine tends to improve as you get older, with 40 percent of people with migraine no longer having attacks by the time they reach 65.

Period pain: The NHS claims 90 percent of women who have periods experience pain and discomfort called dysmenorrhoea (or period pain). Again, it usually improves as you get older, with some women finding their periods less painful after having children.

Around two million women in the UK are also thought to have a condition called endometriosis, which causes heavy or painful periods as well as pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis or lower back.

40s and 50s

Back pain: Years of stress and bad posture can lead to back pain, which affects most people at some point in their life. Generally pushing yourself too hard can cause muscle soreness too, which can also get worse as you get older.

Thankfully most cases of back and muscle pain get better on their own, and you shouldn’t usually need to see your GP.

Gout: A type of arthritis, gout mainly affects men over the age of 30 and women after the menopause (though it’s more common in men). It can cause severe pain in one or more joints, usually the toes, ankles, knees and fingers. If you think you may have gout, see your GP.

60s and older

Osteoarthritis: The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis isn’t a normal part of ageing, says the NHS, but your risk of developing it does increase as you get older.

According to Arthritis Research UK, 33 percent of people aged 45 and over are affected by osteoarthritis, including 49 percent of women and 42 percent of men aged 75 and older. And while it can affect any joint, 18 percent of people have osteoarthritis in one or both knees with 11 percent having osteoarthritis in one or both hips. Wherever you have it, osteoarthritis can cause pain and limit the movement in the effected joint.

Shingles: While it can happen at any age, shingles is most common in people over the age of 70. It’s triggered by the virus that also causes chickenpox, with one in five people affected developing nerve pain in the affected area of skin (postherpetic neuralgia.)

Choosing a painkiller

Pain relief medicines are usually the first type of treatment you may want to try for most pain conditions. But some types of painkiller work better for certain types of pain than others (always read the label, do not exceed the stated dose and speak to your Careway pharmacist about the best way to take them):

  • Paracetamol   Used to treat mild to moderate pain such as headaches, toothache and most non-nerve pain, paracetamol can also help to control a high temperature (when you have flu, for instance). Use with care if you have liver problems, kidney problems or alcohol dependence.
  • Ibuprofen   As it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen is often recommended when pain is combined with inflammation, such as in arthritis, painful periods or an injury. Ibuprofen is also available as a cream or gel and should be avoided by people with certain health conditions and used with caution by older people.
  • Prescription painkillers   If you have more severe pain that doesn’t ease when you take over-the-counter painkillers, always see your GP. Your doctor may prescribe higher-strength pain relief tablets that are only available on prescription. Ask your pharmacist about any special instructions that may be applicable when taking prescription painkillers.
  • Alternative pain relief   Many pharmacies also sell drug-free pain relief devices called TENS machines (short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). These may be useful for people with painful conditions such as arthritis, back pain, period pain, knee and neck pain.


If you have a question about pain relief medicines, your local pharmacist is the best person to speak to. They can tell you which painkiller would be suitable for you, how to take them and offer advice on possible side effects. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.