Pain Management

Basic Facts

Many older adults have pain, which makes daily activities hard to complete. This can get worse with age.

Up to half of older people living at home, and up to 80 percent of those age 85 and older report that they are in serious pain. About 12 percent of older adults have widespread pain, and more women than men report pain. Often pain is under treated among older adults.

Common Types of Pain

Pain may be new (acute) or ongoing for a long time (persistent or chronic). A person can have acute and chronic pain at the same time.

  • Acute pain comes quickly and may not last very long. It results from an injury, surgery, or other type of damage. When the injury heals, the pain usually goes away.
  • Persistent pain lasts for at least 3 months and may not be caused by a disease or injury. People are more likely to have this type of pain if they have health problems, obesity, childhood trauma, abuse. This type of pain can cause disability.

Right to Treatment

 Everyone has a right to get treatment for their pain so that they can:

  • Improve their quality of life
  • Have better cognition (thinking and memory)
  • Experience less depression and anxiety
  • Have better sleep
  • Eat well
  • Be healthier by being active
  • Be independent
  • Enjoy a normal social life

Report Pain to Healthcare Professional

You should report any pain and get treatment that meets your needs because untreated pain can affect your quality of life. Untreated pain is related to many injuries and diseases. 

People may not report pain to their healthcare professional. Common reasons are:

  • Believing that pain is unavoidable or part of getting older
  • Cultural beliefs about reporting pain or language barriers
  • Having cognitive or communication problems
  • Fearing that pain will increase as the underlying disease gets worse
  • Wanting to avoid costly treatments
  • Being concerned about becoming addicted to pain medication
  • Not wanting to be a complainer
  • Avoiding being seen as a burden


Last Updated December 2022

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