Geriatric Chronic Pain: Issues and Challenges from the Research Literature

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Virginia Tech


Researchers interested in chronic pain in older adults come from multiple disciplines; thus existing information about geriatric pain is widely scattered. To establish a foundation from which to construct future research and interventions for older women and men, we developed a comprehensive, multidisciplinary database of the chronic pain and aging literature published between 1990 and 1998. In this paper, we examined the focus of studies of chronic pain in later life, how chronic pain was assessed and treated, and the influence of chronic pain on older adults’ quality of life. A search of ten electronic databases that index scientific journals yielded 302 articles that focused on chronic pain in later life. Given the disproportionate number of women in many of the study samples, gender comparisons were not always statistically feasible. Because a limited number of studies report gender comparisons in older adults, it is difficult to determine whether older women's experiences with chronic pain are unique and require special attention from health care providers or whether the causes, treatments, and consequences of chronic pain should be considered universal to the older population as a whole.