Pain Is A Regular Feeling For Most American Seniors
December 3, 2013

Pain Is A Regular Feeling For Most American Seniors

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

More than half of all older Americans regularly experience problematic pain, and the majority of those individuals report issues in multiple different parts of the body, according to research published in the latest edition of PAIN, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP).

According to the study, an estimated 18.7 million older adults living in the US experienced bothersome pain during the previous month, emphasizing the need for pain-related public health initiatives. The research was based on cognitive and physical performance analyses and interviews completed by trained investigators in the homes of study participants living in the community or in retirement/assisted-living facilities.

“Pain is common in older adults and one of the major reasons why we start slowing down as we age,” lead investigator Dr Kushang V Patel of the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement, and Effectiveness in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington, said in a statement Monday.

The researchers found that the majority of older Americans who said they experienced pain reported having that discomfort in multiple locations, including the back, hip and knees. In addition, they found no age-related variation in the percentage of men and women, even when accounting for cognitive performance and dementia.

The pain reported by the interviewees was associated with a decreased physical capacity, the authors noted. Specifically, those individuals – especially those who reported pain in multiple locations – were found to have less muscular strength, slower walking speed and poorer overall function than their pain-free counterparts.

Patel and his colleagues reviewed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a research project funded by the National Institute on Aging intended to investigate multiple different aspects of day-to-day functionality amongst seniors. The research included in-person interviews with over 7,600 Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65.

Overall, 52.9 percent of the participants had reported bothersome pain during the last month. Pain prevalence was found to be higher in women, in obese seniors, and in those suffering from musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms of depression. Nearly three-fourths (74.9 percent) of older adults who reported pain experienced that discomfort in multiple locations, the study authors reported.

“Several measures of physical capacity, including muscle strength and lower-extremity physical performance, were associated with pain and multisite pain,” Elsevier Health Sciences, the publisher of the journal Pain, said in a statement. “For example, self-reported inability to walk three blocks was 72 percent higher in participants with pain than without pain. Participants with one, two, three, and four or more sites were 41 percent, 57 percent, 81 percent and 105 percent more likely to report inability to walk three blocks, respectively, than older adults without pain.”

“Considering that pain is often poorly managed in the geriatric population, our findings underscore the need for public health action, including additional epidemiologic research and the development and translation of interventions aimed at improving pain and function in older adults,” Patel added.