Clinical

Geriatrics: Pain in older people is under-recognised and under-treated

Pain in older people is under-recognised and under-treated according to the authors of a new guideline on the management of pain in older people by the British Pain Society and the British Geriatrics Society.

There have been very few studies dedicated to the management of pain in older people. However, the bio-physiological changes that occur with ageing, the accumulation of co-morbidities and co-prescription of medication, frailty and psychosocial changes make older people rather different when considering treatment options for pain control.

The British Geriatrics Society and British Pain Society have collaborated to produce the first UK guideline on the management of pain in older people.  The recommendations follow an extensive systematic review of the available literature and aim to help health professionals, in any care setting, to consider the options available when managing pain in older patients.

The guideline has been categorised into sections dealing with pharmacology, interventional therapies, psychological interventions, physical activity and assistive devices and complementary therapies.

Professor Pat Schofield, chair of the working group which produced the guideline said:  “For a number of reasons older people do not always report pain and, in addition to this, health professionals often don’t know how best to manage pain in older people.  Treatment is often limited to prescribing basic medication and is seldom tailored to an individual.  National guidance on the management of pain in older people is long overdue and these evidence based clinical guidelines are an important step towards improving quality of life for older people by focusing attention on a range of appropriate pain relief options and interventions.”

Professor Paul Knight, President British Geriatrics Society said: “This guideline is a welcome development and we hope that health professionals will act on its recommendations.  It is also important that more research is undertaken to evaluate the benefits of different pain control treatments for older people.  As the fastest growing segment of our population, older people should be involved in scientific research and included in clinical trials of medications and interventions as a matter of course.”

Read the guideline.

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