Cavalieri T. Pain management in the elderly. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2002;102(9):481–485. doi: https://doi.org/10.7556/jaoa.2002.102.9.481.
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Pain in the elderly is often unrecognized and undertreated. Ineffective pain management can have a significant impact on the quality of life of older adults, leading to depression, social isolation, and a loss of function. Proper assessment of older adults requires the physician to regularly ask about the presence of pain and be skillful in assessment strategies to evaluate the frequency and intensity of pain. Assessment of pain in older adults with dementia and communication disorders is especially challenging. Effective pain management in elderly patients should include both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic strategies. Pharmacologic strategies call for administration of nonopioid analgesics, opioid analgesics, and adjuvant medication. Polypharmacy, drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, age-associated changes in drug metabolism, and the high frequency of adverse drug reactions need to be carefully considered in using medications in this population. Nonpharmacologic approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, education, osteopathic manipulative treatment, and exercise should be applied in addition to pharmacologic therapy. Using a team approach and incorporating principles of pain management can effectively provide good analgesia for older adults.
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