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Papers: 20 Apr 2019 - 26 Apr 2019

2019 Jul 13

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry


The silent epidemic of chronic pain in older adults.


Domenichiello AF, Ramsden CE
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2019 Jul 13; 93:284-290.
PMID: 31004724.


Chronic pain is highly prevalent among older adults where it is associated with significant suffering, disability, social isolation, and greater costs and burden to health care systems. Pharmaceutical treatment of chronic pain in older adults is usually only partially effective and is often limited by side effects including urinary retention, constipation, sedation, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of falls. Since older adults are underrepresented in clinical trials testing treatments for chronic pain, the potential impacts of polypharmacy and frailty on reported outcomes and side effect profiles are largely unknown. Thus, for current treatments providers and patients must balance anticipated benefits of pain reduction with the known and unknown risks of treatment. Chronic pain is also a risk factor for premature death as well as accelerated cognitive decline, suggesting potential shared mechanisms between persistent pain (or its treatment) and dementia. Cognitive decline and dementia may also impact pain perception and the ability to report pain, complicating treatment decisions. Associations between persistent pain and the risks of premature death and accelerated cognitive decline make estimates for chronic pain in these populations particularly challenging. Future research is needed to improve estimates for chronic pain in older adults, to elucidate underlying mechanisms of pain with aging, and to develop and advance safer, more effective treatment options for chronic pain in older adults.