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09-03-2014 | Pain medicine | Article

Chronic pain highly persistent in older community-dwelling individuals


Free abstract

medwireNews: Chronic nonmalignant musculoskeletal pain is a highly persistent condition among older people living in the community, suggests a prospective longitudinal study.

Over 70% of community-dwelling individuals aged 76 years and older reported chronic pain at the beginning of the study in 2005 and continued to experience it over the following 2 years, report lead researcher Juha Turunen (Farenta Oy, Vantaa, Finland) and colleagues.

Such persistent pain was also associated with poor health and mobility difficulties, they note, yet approximately 20% of individuals were not taking analgesics to relieve their pain.

“This should be a signal to health care professionals and policy makers to alleviate suffering by preventing and controlling chronic pain more effectively among community-dwelling older persons,” the researchers remark in The Clinical Journal of Pain.

“Optimizing pain management among older people could potentially improve their quality of life and delay the progression of mobility limitation. It might be that clinicians concentrate on treating chronic diseases, but the management of pain is not a focus of treatment.”

Turunen and team interviewed 256 older individuals about the prevalence, duration, location and intensity of musculoskeletal pain annually between 2005 and 2007.

Chronic pain was reported by 133 (48.9%) individuals in 2005 and 74.4% experienced pain at all three time points. More than half of those with chronic pain reported that it was mild to severe and the most common pain location was the lower extremities.

Participants with persistent chronic pain were 2.26 times more likely to have moderate or poor self-rated health, 3.07 times more likely to have arthrosis or rheumatoid arthritis and 2.80 times more likely to have difficulty walking 400 m at baseline than participants without chronic pain.

However, the proportion of patients with persistent chronic pain taking analgesics was just 26.3% in 2005, 23.2% in 2006 and 18.2% in 2007.

“Older individuals tend to think that pain is a natural part of the ageing process, but it seems that clinicians also underestimate pain and its consequences in this group,” the team writes.

“Therefore, it is important that clinicians take an active role in raising awareness of chronic pain and its management as early as possible to ease the burden of persistent chronic pain in older persons.”

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2014

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter