A descriptive study of older adults with persistent pain: Use and perceived effectiveness of pain management strategies [ISRCTN11899548]
Kemp, Carol A.
Turner, Judith A.
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Background: Persistent pain is a common, often debilitating, problem in older adults; however, few studies have focused on the experiences of older adults in managing their pain. The objective of this study was to describe the use and perceived effectiveness of pain management strategies in a sample of older adults and to explore the associations of these variables with demographic and psychosocial characteristics. Methods: Adults = 65 years old and living in retirement facilities who reported persistent pain (N= 235, mean age = 82 years, 84% female, 94% white) completed measures of demographics, pain, depression, self-efficacy for managing pain, and a Pain Management Strategies Survey. Participants identified current and previous-year use of 42 pain management strategies and rated helpfulness of each on a 5-point scale. Results: Acetaminophen, regular exercise, prayer, and heat and cold were the most frequently used pain management strategies (61%, 58%, 53%, and 48%, respectively). Strategies used by >25% of the sample that were rated moderately or more helpful (i.e., >2 on a 0 to 4 scale) were prayer [mean (SD) = 2.9 (0.9)], opioids [2.6 (0.8)], regular exercise [2.5 (1.0)], heat/cold [2.5 (1.0)], nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [2.4 (1.0)], and acetaminophen [2.3 (1.0)]. Young-old (65-74 years) study participants reported use of more strategies than did old-old (85+ years) participants (p = .03). Perceived helpfulness of strategy use was significantly associated with pain intensity (r =-.14, p less than .0001), self-efficacy (r = .28, p less than .0001), and depression (r = -.20, p = .003). Conclusion: On average, older adults view the strategies they use for persistent pain as only moderately helpful. The associations between perceived helpfulness and self-efficacy and depression suggest avenues of pain management that are focused less on specific treatments and more on how persons with persistent pain think about their pain.