Persistent pain is associated with poorer health outcomes and may lead to increased vulnerability and diminished physiologic reserve, ultimately precipitating frailty. To test for the existence of this process, we compared the association of self-reported moderate to severe pain with the presence of frailty.
Cross-sectional analysis of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging-Wave 2.
Representative sample of persons age 65 and older in Canada.
Pain (exposure) was categorized as no or very mild pain versus moderate or greater pain. Frailty (outcome) was operationalized as the accumulation of 33 possible self-reported health attitudes, illnesses, and functional abilities, subsequently divided into tertiles (i.e. not frail, pre-frail, and frail). Multivariable logistic regression assessed for the association of pain with frailty.
Of participants who reported moderate or greater pain (35.5% or 1,765 out of 4,968), 16.2% were not frail, 34.1% were pre-frail, and 49.8%were frail. For persons with moderate or greater pain compared to those with mild or no pain, the odds of being pre-frail compared to not frail were higher by a factor of 2.52 (95% confidence interval (CI)=2.13-2.99; p<0.05). For persons with moderate or greater pain compared to those with mild or no pain, the odds of being frail compared to not frail was higher by a factor of 5.52 (CI=4.49-6.64; p<0.05).
Moderate or higher pain was independently associated with the presence of frailty. While we cannot ascertain causality in a cross-sectional analysis, interventions to improve pain management may help prevent or ameliorate frailty.
Pain; frailty; older adults; homeostenosis
Persistent pain and cognitive impairment are common in older adults. Memory and mental flexibility are cognitive domains which may be vulnerable in the aging brain. We were interested in examining the effects of persistent pain and opioid use on cognition in community dwelling, non-demented older adults.
Older Adult Pain Management Program.
57 new patients (mean age 76.1) were recruited to describe 1) rates of persistent pain conditions and pain intensity, 2) cognition (memory and mental flexibility), 3) rates and severity of depression, and 4) sleep quality. All patients had non-malignant pain for at least 3 months. Pain intensity was measured with the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Diagnosis of depression was via the Patient Health Questionnaire and depression severity assessed with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Cognition was assessed with: 1) Mini Mental State Examination, 2) number-letter-switching and motor speed trail-making subtests, 3) Digit Symbol Subtest of the WAIS-R, and 4) free and paired recall of the WAIS-R. To determine which variables predicted poorer outcomes on mental flexibility tests, these variables were entered into a multiple regression.
Pain severity was associated with impaired number-letter switching (r = −0.42, p = 0.002). Multiple regression showed pain severity was associated with impaired mental flexibility (parameter estimate = −0.29 (t = −2.00), p = 0.05). Patients taking opioids had worse memory (t = 2.17, df = 39, p = 0.04).
In community-dwelling older adults, pain severity is associated with impaired mental flexibility. In addition, opioids may increase memory problems.
Chronic pain; Cognitive function; Memory; Cognitively impaired; Opioids
Currently, an estimated 38 million individuals 65 years or older live in the United States, and more than 11 million of these individuals are 80 years or older. Older people are at high risk of neuropathic pain because many diseases that cause neuropathic pain increase in incidence with age. Depending on their underlying health, older adults with neuropathic pain may have to cope with multiple coexisting diseases, polypharmacy, and impaired functional ability. The objective of this article is to review how aging and frailty affect the treatment of older adults with neuropathic pain. Specific topics reviewed include the complexity of treatment decisions in older patients due to aged heterogeneity, multimorbidity, and polypharmacy; selection of treatment in an effort to maximize patients' functional abilities in addition to relieving their pain; more careful dosing (usually lower) and monitoring of pharmacotherapy relative to younger patients due to age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics; and underrepresentation of older adults in clinical trials of neuropathic pain treatments, which further compromises physicians' ability to make informed treatment decisions.
Reports indicate that characteristics of older adults with chronic pain may be different than those of younger persons.
To study the pain characteristics of older patients presenting to a tertiary pain clinic for the first time.
Age, sex and relative contributions of biomedical versus psychosocial variables contributing to chronic pain were investigated in patients 65 years of age and older, in comparison with younger patients, from a sample of 1242 consecutive new patients attending a tertiary care pain clinic. The presence of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision somatoform pain disorders were defined, using an explicated method of ascertaining the biomedical and psychological variables underlying the pain complaints.
The older patients (14.7% of the total sample) had relatively more physical problems (concordant with their complaints) but fewer psychological factors contributing to disability than the younger pain patients. Musculoskeletal and neuropathic disorders affected 40.7% and 35.2% of the older patients, respectively, while several patients had more than one painful disorder. Musculoskeletal problems were more prevalent in the women, and neuropathic problems were more prevalent in the men.
The older pain patients are a distinct group. Factors affecting the delayed presentation of older pain patients to the pain clinic and limitations of the present study are discussed.
Chronic pain; Older adults; Pain disorder
The treatment of older adults with pain is complex and affected by age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Chronic pain encompasses a complex array of sensory-discriminatory, motivational-affective, and cognitive-evaluative components. Because of this complexity, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches should be considered to treat pain.
Given the large number of older persons with pain at the end of life and the few data about this issue, the objective of this article is to review the treatment of pain in this population.
Patients and Methods:
We searched The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE and LILACS from 1990 to 2011 and the references in retrieved manuscripts. The search terms were pain AND elderly AND end of life.
There are evidences of undertreatment among elderly people. The association of nonpharmacologic resources with the pharmacological treatment can help reduce the use of analgesics minimizing the side effects of long term medication. Pharmacological treatment is escalated in an orderly manner from non-opioid to weak opioid to strong opioid. Adjuvant drugs like anticonvulsants and antidepressants may be necessary.
The sequential use of analgesics drugs and opioids are considered effective and relatively inexpensive for relieving pain, but no well designed specific studies in the elderly patient are available. There are not specific recommendations about the long-term use of complementary and alternative therapies and although their effectiveness remains unproven they should not be discouraged. Palliative sedation may be a valid palliative care option to relieve suffering in the imminently dying patient.
Chronic pain; end of life care; older people; pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is one of the most common, poorly understood, and potentially disabling chronic pain conditions from which older adults suffer. Many older adults remain quite functional despite CLBP, and because age-related comorbidities often exist independently of pain (e.g., medical illnesses, sleep disturbance, mobility difficulty), the unique impact of CLBP is unknown. We conducted this research to identify the multidimensional factors that distinguish independent community dwelling older adults with CLBP from those that are pain-free. Three hundred twenty cognitively intact participants (162 with ≥ moderate pain for ≥ 3 months, and 158 pain-free) underwent comprehensive assessment of pain severity, medical comorbidity (illnesses, body mass index, medications), severity of degenerative disc and facet disease, lumbar flexion, psychological constructs (self-efficacy, mood, overall mental health), and self-reported as well as performance-based physical function. Significant differences were ascertained for all 22 measures. Discriminant function analysis revealed that eight measures uniquely maximized the separation between the two groups (self-reported function with the Functional Status Index and the SF-36, performance-based function with repetitive trunk rotation and functional reach, mood with the Geriatric Depression Scale, comorbidity with the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale and BMI, and severity of degenerative disc disease). These results should help to guide investigators that perform studies of CLBP in older adults and practitioners that want an easily adaptable battery for use in clinical settings.
chronic low back pain; older adults; disability; functional performance
With the increasing number of elderly patients the issue of pain management for older people is of increasing relevance. The alterations with aging of the neurobiology of pain have impacts of pain threshold, tolerance and treatment. In this review the available evidence from animal and human experimentation is discussed to highlight the differences between young and older subjects along with consideration of how these changes have practical effect on drug treatment of pain. Cognitive impairment, physical disability and social isolation can also impact on the accessibility of treatment and have to be considered along with the biological changes with ageing. Conventional pain therapies, while verified in younger adults cannot be automatically applied to the elderly without consideration of all these factors and in no other group of patients is a holistic approach to treatment more important.
pain; analgesia; pain threshold; pain tolerance
The study aimed to compare the psychological and physical characteristics of older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) vs those of adults with chronic low back pain (CLBP) and to identify psychological and physical predictors of function as measured by gait speed.
Secondary data analysis.
Method and Patients
Eighty-eight older adults with advanced knee OA and 200 with CLBP who had participated in separate randomized controlled trials were selected for this study.
Inclusion criteria for both trials included age ≥65 and pain of at least moderate intensity that occurred daily or almost every day for at least the previous 3 months. Psychological constructs (catastrophizing, fear avoidance, self-efficacy, depression, affective distress) and physical measures (comorbid medical conditions, pain duration, pain severity, pain related interference, self-rated health) were obtained.
Subjects with CLBP had slower gait (0.88 m/s vs 0.96 m/s, P = 0.002) and more comorbid conditions than subjects with knee pain (mean 3.36 vs 1.97, P < 0.001). All the psychological measures were significantly worse in the CLBP group except the Multidimensional Pain Inventory–Affective Distress score. Self-efficacy, pain severity, and medical comorbidity burden were associated with slower gait regardless of the location of the pain.
Older adults with chronic pain may have distinct psychological and physical profiles that differentially impact gait speed. These findings suggest that not all pain conditions are the same in their psychological and physical characteristics and may need to be taken into consideration when developing treatment plans.
Low Back Pain; Knee Pain; Physical Function; Psychosocial Factors
Chronic pain is more common in the elderly and impairs functioning and quality of life. Though obesity, defined by body mass index (BMI), has been associated with pain prevalence among older adults, the mechanism of this association remains unclear. We examined components of the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, a marker of inflammation, and the presence of painful comorbidities as possible mediators of this association. Participants were 407 individuals age • 70 in the Einstein Aging Study. Chronic pain and pain over the last 3 months were defined using the Total Pain Index (TPI). Insulin resistance was modeled as fasting insulin, HOMA and QUICKI. High sensitivity C-reactive protein was used as a marker of inflammation. Cross-sectional logistic regression models were constructed to assess the associations of these factors with prevalent pain, adjusted for other known pain correlates. Prevalence of chronic pain was 52%. Of the clinical components of metabolic syndrome, central obesity was significantly associated with pain (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.36-3.01). After adjustment for insulin resistance, inflammation, and pain-related comorbidities, central obesity predicted higher TPI scores (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.04-2.33) and nearly doubled the risk of chronic pain (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.05-2.75). Central obesity is the metabolic syndrome component showing the strongest independent association with pain, and the relationship is not explained by markers of insulin resistance or inflammation, nor by the presence of osteoarthritis or neuropathy.
Functional imaging has revolutionized the neurosciences. In the pain field it has dramatically altered our understanding of how the brain undergoes significant functional, anatomical and chemical changes in patients with chronic pain. However, most studies have been performed in adults. Because functional imaging is non-invasive and can be performed in awake individuals, applications in children have become more prevalent, but only recently in the pain field. Measures of changes in the brains of children have important implications in understanding neural plasticity in response to acute and chronic pain in the developing brain. Such findings may have implications for treatments in children affected by chronic pain and provide novel insights into chronic pain syndromes in adults. In this review we summarize this potential and discuss specific concerns related to the imaging of pain in children.
Musculoskeletal pain is common, frequently under-reported, and inadequately treated in the older adult. The objective of this article is to review the management of musculoskeletal pain syndromes in older adults emphasising the potential role of opioid agents in carefully selected patients. Systematic analysis of the relevant literature was done. Even in cognitively impaired patients, assessment of musculoskeletal pain is mandatory. An algorithm for musculoskeletal pain is presented emphasising a stepwise pharmacological approach in combination with an array of non-pharmacological therapies. Comorbid conditions may limit therapeutic choices, particularly in the elderly. Repeated assessment of pain levels as well as functional status is critical for optimal pain management.
Chronic pain is a common, disabling problem in older adults. Pain self-management training is a multimodal therapy that has been found to be effective in young to middle-aged adult samples; however, few studies have examined the effectiveness of this therapy in older adults. In this randomized, controlled trial, we evaluated a pain self-management training group (SMG) intervention as compared with an education-only (BOOK) control condition. Participants, 65 years of age or older who experienced persistent, noncancer pain that limited their activities, were recruited from 43 retirement communities in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The primary outcome was physical disability, as measured by the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were depression (Geriatric Depression Scale), pain intensity (Brief Pain Inventory), and pain-related interference with activities (Brief Pain Inventory). Randomization occurred by facility to minimize cross-contamination between groups. Two-hundred and fifty-six individuals, mean age=81.8 (SD: 6.5), enrolled and 218 completed the study. No significant differences in outcomes were found between groups at post-intervention, 6-month follow-up, or 12-month follow-up. The SMG group showed a significantly greater increase over time, relative to the BOOK group, in two process measures, as measured by the Chronic Pain Coping Inventory: use of relaxation and use of exercise/stretching. In both cases, the increase was greatest from baseline to the post-intervention assessment. Study findings indicate that additional research is needed to determine the most effective content and delivery methods for self-management therapies targeted at older adults with chronic pain.
The chorda tympani (CT), which innervates taste buds on the anterior portion of the tongue, is susceptible to damage during inner ear surgeries. Injury to the CT causes a disappearance of taste buds, which is concurrent with significant microglial responses at central nerve terminals in the nucleus of the solitary tract (nTS). The resulting taste disturbances that can occur may persist for months or years, long after the nerve and taste buds have regenerated. These persistent changes in taste sensation suggest alterations in central functioning and may be related to the microglial responses. This is reminiscent of nerve injuries that result in chronic pain, where microglial reactivity is essential in maintaining the altered sensation (i.e., pain). In these models, methods that diminish microglial responses also diminish the corresponding pain behavior. Although the CT nerve does not contain nociceptive pain fibers, the microglial reactivity after CT damage is similar to that described in pain models. Therefore, methods that decrease microglial responses in pain models were used here to test if they could also affect microglial reactivity after CT injury. Treatment with minocycline, an antibiotic that dampens pain responsive microglia, was largely ineffective in diminishing microglial responses after CT injury. In addition, signaling through the toll-like 4 receptor (TLR4) does not seem to be required after CT injury as blocking or deleting TLR4 had no effect on microglial reactivity. These results suggest that microglial responses following CT injury rely on different signaling mechanisms than those described in nerve injuries resulting in chronic pain.
Emotional-affective and cognitive dimensions of pain are less well understood than nociceptive and nocifensive components, but the forebrain is believed to play an important role. Recent evidence suggests subcortical and cortical brain areas outside the traditional pain processing network contribute critically to emotional-affective responses and cognitive deficits related to pain. These brain areas include different nuclei of the amygdala and certain prefrontal cortical areas. Their roles in various aspects of pain will be discussed. Biomarkers of cortical dysfunction are being identified that may evolve into therapeutic targets to modulate pain experience and improve pain-related cognitive impairment. Supporting data from preclinical studies in neuropathic pain models will be presented. Neuroimaging analysis provides evidence for plastic changes in the pain processing brain network. Results of clinical studies in neuropathic pain patients suggest that neuroimaging may help determine mechanisms of altered brain functions in pain as well as monitor the effects of pharmacologic interventions to optimize treatment in individual patients. Recent progress in the analysis of higher brain functions emphasizes the concept of pain as a multidimensional experience and the need for integrative approaches to determine the full spectrum of harmful or protective neurobiological changes in pain.
Pain; emotion; cognition; decision-making; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
To evaluate if there are differences in emergency department (ED) pain assessment and treatment in older versus younger adults.
Retrospective observational cohort.
Urban, academic tertiary care ED during July and December 2005.
Adult patients with conditions warranting ED pain care.
Age, Charlson comorbidity score, number of prior medications, gender, race/ethnicity, triage severity, degree of pain, treating clinician, and final ED diagnosis. Pain care process measures were pain assessment and treatment, and time of activities.
A total of 1,031 ED visits met inclusion criteria. Ninety-two percent of these had a documented pain assessment. Of those reporting pain, 41% had follow-up pain assessments and 59% received analgesic medication (58% of these as opioid, 24% as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)). In adjusted analyses, there were no differences by age in pain assessment and receiving any analgesic. Older patients (65–84 years) were less likely than younger patients (18–64 years) to receive opioid analgesics for moderate to severe (OR=0.44, 95% CI (0.22, 0.88)) and had a trend to more likely to receive NSAIDs for mild pain (OR=3.72, 95% CI (0.97, 14.24)). Older adults had a lower reduction of initial to final recorded pain scores (p<0.01).
There appear to be differences in acute ED pain care for older adults. Both lower overall reduction of pain scores and decreased opioid use for the treatment of painful conditions in older patients highlight disparities of concern. Future studies should determine if these differences represent inadequate ED pain care.
emergency department; pain; quality of care; geriatrics
Late-life depression is common in older people. Its incidence increases significantly after age 70 to 85, as well as among those living in long-term care facilities. Depression contributes to excess morbidity and complicates management of comorbid conditions in older people. Diagnosis and management of depression often present clinicians with a challenge. Indeed, symptoms of depression in older people may not always be the same as those associated with depression in younger people. Additionally, age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics also impact selection, dosing, and monitoring of psychopharmacologic regimens. Optimizing management of depression and providing sound advice to older patients with depression requires knowledge and understanding of many clinical factors. The purpose of this review is to highlight salient issues in late-life depression, with a focus on the pharmacotherapy of depression.
Joint pain is a highly prevalent condition in the older population. Only a minority of the older adults consult the general practitioner for joint pain, and during consultation joint pain is often poorly recognized and treated, especially when other co-existing chronic conditions are involved. Therefore, older adults with joint pain and comorbidity may have a higher risk of poor functional outcome and decreased quality of life (QoL), and possibly need more attention in primary care. The main purpose of the study is to explore functioning in older adults with joint pain and comorbidity, in terms of mobility, functional independence and participation and to identify possible predictors of poor functional outcome. The study will also identify predictors of decreased QoL. The results will be used to develop prediction models for the early identification of subgroups at high risk of poor functional outcome and decreased QoL. This may contribute to better targeting of treatment and to more effective health care in this population.
The study has been designed as a prospective cohort study, with measurements at baseline and after 6, 12 and 18 months. For the recruitment of 450 patients, 25 general practices will be approached. Patients are eligible for participation if they are 65 years or older, have at least two chronic conditions and report joint pain on most days. Data will be collected using various methods (i.e. questionnaires, physical tests, patient interviews and focus groups). We will measure different aspects of functioning (e.g. mobility, functional independence and participation) and QoL. Other measurements concern possible predictors of functioning and QoL (e.g. pain, co-existing chronic conditions, markers for frailty, physical performance, psychological factors, environmental factors and individual factors). Furthermore, health care utilization, health care needs and the meaning and impact of joint pain will be investigated from an older person's perspective.
In this paper, we describe the protocol of a prospective cohort study in Dutch older adults with joint pain and comorbidity and discuss the potential strengths and limitations of the study.
Lower limb pain is an important determinant of locomotor disability. Recurrent episodes of pain may have a cumulative effect on functional decline in later life.
Locomotor disability (LMD) is common at older ages, and can lead to other significant disability and mortality. Prevalent pain has been shown to be associated with LMD. This article aimed to assess the association between changes in lower limb pain status (ascertained from a manikin) and changes in the level of self-reported LMD in a sample of UK adults age ⩾50 years, over a 6-year period (data collected at 3-year intervals). There was an average increase in the level of LMD over 6 years. Reports of an onset of lower limb pain were associated with a relative increase in LMD, independently of sociodemographic factors and the onset of selected comorbid diseases. A dose-response relationship was observed between the onset of multiple lower limb joint involvement and more frequent or intense pain and larger increases in LMD. Becoming free from lower limb pain was associated with a relative decrease in LMD, but did not return LMD scores to the level of those who had remained pain-free throughout. This is consistent with a cumulative effect on LMD of recurrent episodes of pain. Lower limb pain may be a key target for prevention and rehabilitation to reduce years lived with disability in later life.
Locomotion; Disability evaluation; Pain; Longitudinal studies
Studies show that inducing a positive mood or diverting attention from pain decreases pain perception. Nevertheless, induction manipulations, such as viewing interesting movies or performing mathematical tasks, often influence both emotional and attentional state. Imaging studies have examined the neural basis of psychological pain modulation, but none has explicitly separated the effects of emotion and attention. Using odors to modulate mood and shift attention from pain, we previously showed that the perceptual consequences of changing mood differed from those of altering attention, with mood primarily altering pain unpleasantness and attention preferentially altering pain intensity. These findings suggest that brain circuits involved in pain modulation provoked by mood or attention are partially separable. Here we used functional MRI to directly compare the neuro-circuitry involved in mood- and attention-related pain modulation. We manipulated independently mood state and attention direction, using tasks involving heat pain and pleasant and unpleasant odors. Pleasant odors, independent of attentional focus, induced positive mood changes and decreased pain unpleasantness and pain-related activity within the anterior cingulate (ACC), medial thalamus (medialTH), and primary and secondary somatosensory cortices. The effects of attentional state were less robust, with only the activity in anterior insular cortex (aIC) showing possible attentional modulation. Lateral inferior frontal cortex (LinfF-BA45/47) activity correlated with mood-related modulation while superior posterior parietal (SPP-BA7) and entorhinal activity correlated with attention-related modulation. ACC activity covaried with LinfF and PAG activity, whereas aIC activity covaried with SPP activity. These findings suggest that separate neuro-modulatory circuits underlie emotional and attentional modulation of pain.
pain; fMRI; attention; emotion; odor; heat
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex appears to alter pain perception in healthy adults and in patients with chronic neuropathic pain. There is, however, emerging brain imaging evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is involved in pain inhibition in humans.
Because the prefrontal cortex may be involved in descending pain inhibitory systems, the present pilot study was conducted to investigate whether stimulation of the left prefrontal cortex via TMS might affect pain perception in healthy adults.
Twenty healthy adults with no history of depression or chronic pain conditions volunteered to participate in a pilot laboratory study in which thermal pain thresholds were assessed before and after 15 min of repetitive TMS (rTMS) over the left prefrontal cortex (10 Hz, 100% resting motor threshold, 2 s on, 60 s off, 300 pulses total). Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either real or sham rTMS and were blind to condition.
Subjects who received real rTMS demonstrated a significant increase in thermal pain thresholds following TMS. Subjects receiving sham TMS experienced no change in pain threshold.
rTMS over the left prefrontal cortex increases thermal pain thresholds in healthy adults. Results from the present study support the idea that the left prefrontal cortex may be a promising TMS cortical target for the management of pain. More research is needed to establish the reliability of these findings, maximize the effect, determine the length of effect and elucidate possible mechanisms of action.
Left prefrontal cortex; Pain; Thermal pain thresholds; TMS
Since modern brain imaging of pain began 20 years ago, networks in the brain related to pain processing and those related to different types of pain modulation, including placebo, have been identified. Functional and anatomical connectivity of these circuits has begun to be analyzed. Imaging in patients suggests that chronic pain is associated with altered function and structural abnormalities in pain modulatory circuits. Moreover, biochemical alterations associated with chronic pain are being identified that provide information on cellular correlates as well as potential mechanisms of structural changes. Data from these brain imaging studies reinforce the idea that chronic pain leads to brain changes that could have functional significance.
One mechanism that has been hypothesized to contribute to older adults’ changes in cognitive performance is goal neglect or impairment in maintaining task set across time. Mind-wandering and task-unrelated thought may underlie these potential age-related changes. The present study investigated age-related changes in mind-wandering in three different versions of the Sustained Attention to Response task (SART), along with self-reported mind-wandering during a reading for comprehension task. In the SART, both younger and older adults produced similar levels of faster reaction times before No-Go errors of commission, whereas, older adults produced disproportionate post-error slowing. Subjective self-reports of mind-wandering recorded during the SART and the reading task indicated that older adults were less likely to report mind-wandering than younger adults. Discussion focuses on cognitive and motivational mechanisms that may account for older adults’ relatively low levels of reported mind-wandering.
mind-wandering; attention; aging; SART; reading
The purpose of this study is to determine whether older adults presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with pain are less likely to receive pain medication than younger adults.
Pain-related visits to US EDs were identified using reason-for-visit codes from 7 years (2003–2009) of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The primary outcome was the administration of an analgesic. The percentage of patients receiving analgesics in four age groups were adjusted for measured covariates including pain severity.
Pain-related visits accounted for 88,031 (46.9%) of ED visits by patients 18 or older during the 7-year period. There were 7,585 pain-related ED visits by patients 75 or older, representing an estimated 3.65 million US ED visits annually. Comparing survey-weighted unadjusted estimates, pain-related visits by patients 75 or older were less likely than visits by patients 35–54 to result in administration of an analgesic (49% vs. 68.3%) or an opioid (34.8% vs. 49.3%). Absolute differences in rates of analgesic and opioid administration persisted after adjustment for sex, race/ethnicity, pain severity and other factors and multiple imputation of missing pain severity data, with visits by patients 75 and older being 19.6% (95% CI, 17.8%-21.4%) less likely than visits by patients age 35–54 to receive an analgesic and 14.6% (95% CI, 12.8%–16.4%) less likely to receive an opioid.
Patients 75 and older with pain-related ED visits are less likely to receive pain medication than patients age 35–54.
Geriatrics; Pain; Emergency Treatment
During the chronic stage of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), impaired microcirculation is related to increased vasoconstriction, tissue hypoxia, and metabolic tissue acidosis in the affected limb. Several mechanisms may be responsible for the ischemia and pain in chronic cold CPRS.
The diminished blood flow may be caused by either sympathetic dysfunction, hypersensitivity to circulating catecholamines, or endothelial dysfunction. The pain may be of neuropathic, inflammatory, nociceptive, or functional nature, or of mixed origin.
The origin of the pain should be the basis of the symptomatic therapy. Since the difference in temperature between both hands fluctuates over time in cold CRPS, when in doubt, the clinician should prioritize the patient's report of a persistent cold extremity over clinical tests that show no difference. Future research should focus on developing easily applied methods for clinical use to differentiate between central and peripheral blood flow regulation disorders in individual patients.
Changes in brain structure and cortical function are associated with many chronic pain conditions including low back pain and fibromyalgia. The magnitude of these changes correlates with the duration and/or the intensity of chronic pain. Most studies report changes in common areas involved in pain modulation, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and pain-related pathological changes in the PFC can be reversed with effective treatment. While the mechanisms underlying these changes are unknown, they must be dynamically regulated. Epigenetic modulation of gene expression in response to experience and environment is reversible and dynamic. Epigenetic modulation by DNA methylation is associated with abnormal behavior and pathological gene expression in the central nervous system. DNA methylation might also be involved in mediating the pathologies associated with chronic pain in the brain. We therefore tested a) whether alterations in DNA methylation are found in the brain long after chronic neuropathic pain is induced in the periphery using the spared nerve injury modal and b) whether these injury-associated changes are reversible by interventions that reverse the pathologies associated with chronic pain. Six months following peripheral nerve injury, abnormal sensory thresholds and increased anxiety were accompanied by decreased global methylation in the PFC and the amygdala but not in the visual cortex or the thalamus. Environmental enrichment attenuated nerve injury-induced hypersensitivity and reversed the changes in global PFC methylation. Furthermore, global PFC methylation correlated with mechanical and thermal sensitivity in neuropathic mice. In summary, induction of chronic pain by peripheral nerve injury is associated with epigenetic changes in the brain. These changes are detected long after the original injury, at a long distance from the site of injury and are reversible with environmental manipulation. Changes in brain structure and cortical function that are associated with chronic pain conditions may therefore be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms.