Chronic pain in people with an intellectual disability: under-recognised and under-treated?

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2010 Mar;54(3):240-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01254.x.


Aim: To examine the nature, prevalence and impact of chronic pain in adults with an intellectual disability (ID) based on carer report.

Methods: Postal questionnaires were sent to 250 care-givers and 157 responses were received (63%).

Results: Chronic pain was reported in 13% of the sample (n = 21), 6.3% had pain in two sites and 2% had pain in three or more sites. Of those with chronic pain, 19 experienced mild chronic pain, while severe pain was reported for two service users. Pain problems were more prevalent in those with a Mild ID than in those with more severe disability, perhaps reflecting the ability of the Mild group to communicate about their pain. Non-prescription medication was the most common form of treatment and there was a notable absence of involvement of specialist pain services.

Conclusions: Given their increased risk for chronic pain, we concluded that pain in the ID population may be under-recognised and under-treated, especially in those with impaired capacity to communicate about their pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult