Managing pain in the elderly population: pearls and pitfalls

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2010 Dec;14(6):409-17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-010-0148-0.


While pain is a common symptom among older adults, it often is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Aging-related physiological changes, misperceptions about the use of pain medications by both patients and providers, and the lack of evidence-based clinical research on pain management in older adults are some of the reasons why pain in older adults is mismanaged. Using extrapolated evidence from pain research in younger patients, consensus statements, and best practice guidelines, this article summarizes and highlights areas of geriatric pain assessment and management that need special consideration. Some highlighted areas include 1) pain assessment in cognitively impaired patients; 2) medication choice and initiation doses; 3) duration of adequate medication trials; and 4) common medication side effects and suggested management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods


  • Analgesics