Jane Oshinowo, RNEC, Primary health care Nurse Practitioner,
York Community Services, Toronto, ON.
Pain is more than the perception of a nociceptive stimulus in the peripheral or central nervous system. It is "what the person says it is."1 Ferrell1 developed a conceptual model that identifies four dimensions of pain and their impact on a person's quality of life (Figure 1). This model can be used to enhance the caregiver's understanding of the patient's experience of pain. Pain can be acute, chronic or chronic malignant in nature. In the elderly, illness tends to be chronic and the pain is often related to a degenerative condition. However, the elderly do experience acute pain. Whether acute or chronic, pain is more difficult to assess in the cognitively impaired elder. Despite our recognition of the global impact of pain on the individual, and the morbidity and mortality associated with inadequately managed pain, 25-50% of community dwelling elders are living in pain.2
Chronic pain management today is multidimensional. Analgesics tend to be the mainstay of therapy. However, non-pharmacological therapies are currently under investigation and in practice as complementary or alternative therapies to medications. This field is very large and continues to expand. For the purposes of this article, only the more commonly used and better-researched therapies will be discussed.