Physical exercise: does it help in relieving pain and increasing mobility among older adults with chronic pain?

J Clin Nurs. 2011 Mar;20(5-6):635-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03548.x.


Aim: To provide a physical exercise programme for older adults living in nursing homes.

Background: Pain is common among older persons and for those already in long-term care and having difficulty in coping with pain will be at risk of further reducing their optimal independent function.

Design: A quasi-experimental single group pretest-posttest design.

Method: Older persons from a nursing home were invited to join an eight-week physical exercise programme. Each session lasted an hour and sessions were conducted once a week by physiotherapist and nurses. Physical exercise programme consisted of stretching, strengthening, balancing, towel dancing and self-administered massage to various acupressure points. On completion of each session, older persons were given a pamphlet with pictures to illustrate the exercise of the day and they were encouraged to practise these exercises by themselves. Outcome measures including pain intensity, range of movement, activities of daily living and mobility were collected before and after the physical exercise programme.

Results: There were 75 older adult participants (57 female and 18 male, mean age 85.14 SD 5.30). Seventy-three percent (n = 55) of them had pain in the previous three months and were referred as pain group, while 25% (n = 20) were no pain group. Pain scores of 4.89 (on a 10-point scale) indicated medium pain intensity before the intervention for the pain group; the location of pain was mainly in the knee, back and shoulder. On completion of the physical exercise programme, there was a significant decrease in pain intensity to 2.89 (SD 2.14) (p < 0.01). There was a significant increase in range of movement in the neck, shoulder, back, hip and knee rotation, flex and abduction (p < 0.01). Mobility level was significantly increased post intervention, yet activities of daily living remained unchanged.

Conclusions: The present study demonstrated the effectiveness of a physical exercise programme in relieving pain and enhancing functional mobility for older persons. Relevance to clinical practice. It is important to educate older persons, especially those living in nursing homes, on the importance of engaging in regular physical exercise and maintaining mobility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Pain / prevention & control*