Pain management in older adults: prevention and treatment

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001 Feb;49(2):188-99. doi: 10.1046/j.1532-5415.2001.49041.x.


The release of guidelines in 1998 by the American Geriatrics Society on "The Management of Chronic Pain in Older Persons" was a breakthrough in helping to manage pain in this population. Already advances have fostered a need to update recommendations. This article focuses on the treatment strategies available for seniors that are likely to help to fulfill the obligation to relieve pain and suffering in patients. A review was done of the literature using Medline and other search techniques. New pain scales have been developed with seniors in mind and greater testing of older scales in elderly populations have helped to identify measures of pain more suited to frail seniors. Advances in cyclooxygenase inhibition selectivity, alternative medicine, and progress in the identification of nonopioid pain receptors and the development of products to target them are just a few of changes that have altered the way clinicians think about treating pain. The use of hospice in end-of-life palliative care is a valuable resource for clinicians managing pain at that phase in care as well. Tools are available to prevent and treat pain successfully in seniors. Educating clinicians about available assessment tools, techniques and interventions may be the biggest challenge to comforting the older adult in pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged*
  • Algorithms
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Decision Trees
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hospice Care / methods
  • Humans
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Receptors, Opioid


  • Analgesics
  • Receptors, Opioid