Pain in older persons

S. J. Gibson, B. Katz, T. M. Corran, M. J. Farrell, R. D. Helme

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Chronic pain is more prevalent in older persons than in young adults. In this review the physiological, pathological, and psychological reasons for altered pain sensibility in older persons are explored and strategies for the management of pain in older persons described. The evidence suggests that altered physiology of peripheral and central pain mechanisms combine with psychological attitudes, such as stoicism and reluctance to confirm the presence of pain, to raise pain threshold. However, once pain is experienced, older persons describe the same severity, quality, and psychological disturbance as younger persons. There is some evidence to suggest that the complaint of pain in the presence of pathology is reported less often in older persons. On the other hand, the presence of persistent or recurrent clinical pain may have a greater impact on the psychological, social, and physical function of older adults. It is also clear, however, that further empirical studies are required in order to delineate the age-related differences and similarities in the chronic pain experience. Management of chronic pain in the elderly requires meticulous diagnosis of the causal pain mechanisms as well as a holistic approach which gives due regard to psychological and social consequences of pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994


  • Elderly
  • Pain

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