A Review of Chronic Pain in Elderly People

Lucia Gagliese, PhD
Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University,
Staff Scientist, Department of Anaesthesia, University Health Network, and
Assistant Professor, Department of Anaesthesia, University of Toronto.

Brenda Kraetschmer, RN, BScN
Clinical Research Coordinator,
Department of Anaesthesia, Mount Sinai Hospital and
University Health Network, Toronto, ON.


As the population ages, health care workers will increasingly be called upon to provide effective pain assessment and management to elderly patients. Fortunately, information regarding age-related patterns of pain, disability and psychological distress has become more readily available over the past decade. However, this area of study remains in its infancy and further research is urgently needed. In this article, we present a brief overview of some of the most recent data about the epidemiology, assessment and management of chronic pain in elderly people.

Epidemiological Studies
There is no clear-cut pattern of age differences in the prevalence of pain. Results vary depending on the population and type of pain studied.1 Epidemiological studies conducted in community settings have found that the prevalence of many pain complaints, including headache, migraine and low back pain, peaks in middle-age and decreases thereafter.