Pain in the nursing home

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1990 Apr;38(4):409-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1990.tb03538.x.


Pain is an understudied problem in geriatric medicine and especially among nursing home residents. The focus of this study was to describe the scope of the problem of pain in a long-term care facility. Ninety-seven subjects from a 311-bed multilevel teaching nursing home were interviewed, and charts were reviewed for pain problems and management strategies. Functional status, depression, and cognitive impairment were also evaluated. Results indicate that 71% of residents had at least one pain complaint (range, 1-4). Of subjects with pain, 34% described constant (continuous) pain and 66% described intermittent pain. Of 43 subjects with intermittent pain, 51% described pain on a daily basis. Major sources of pain included low back pain (40%), arthritis of appendicular joints (24%), previous fracture sites (14%), and neuropathies (11%). Moderately strong correlations were found between pain and infrequent attendance at recreational and social activities (r = .50). However, little correlation was observed between pain and the Yesavage Depression Scale, the Folstein Mini-Mental State Scale, or basic ADLs measured by the Katz Scale. Pain-management strategies consisted of analgesic drugs, physical therapy, and heating pads. Only 15% of patients with pain had received medication within the previous 24 hours. The findings suggest that pain is a major problem in long-term care. Strategies for pain management appear to be limited in scope and application in this setting. Important barriers were identified that influence the reporting and management of pain in this setting.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arteriosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Arthritis / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Long-Term Care
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Tests