Pain management in the elderly

Med Clin North Am. 2015 Mar;99(2):337-50. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2014.11.007. Epub 2014 Dec 24.


Persistent pain in older adults is common, and associated with substantial morbidity. Optimal management starts with assessment, including pain presence, intensity, characteristics, and interference; painful conditions; pain behaviors; pain-related morbidity; pain treatments; and coping style. Treatment incorporates analgesics demonstrated to decrease pain and improve a patient's sense of well-being. The World Health Organization's 3-step pain ladder is widely accepted and adopted for selecting analgesics among patients with non-cancer pain. Shared decision making is essential to balance the benefits and burdens of analgesics. This article reviews pain assessment/management for older adults, focusing on commonly used analgesics.

Keywords: Older adult; Pain; Pain assessment; Pain management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Administration, Topical
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain / classification
  • Chronic Pain / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Management / standards
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Acetaminophen