Nearly two-thirds of older, disabled women report significant pain in their back, knees, hips, and feet, and have considerable difficulty controlling it, according to new findings from the National Institute on Aging's (NIA) Women's Health & Aging Study. The analysis, one of the first to look at doses of medication in relation to pain, found that almost half of women with severe pain took very small amounts of medication or no medication at all. In a smaller percentage of cases, they took too much. This mismatch of pain to effective medication, the researchers said, suggests a need for more effective strategies for managing pain in older people.
This portrait of pain among older women comes from a report by Marco Pahor, M.D., University of Tennessee, Memphis, Jack M. Guralnik, M.D., Ph.D., at the NIA, and colleagues, whose findings appear in the June 1999 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The report is based on data from the Women's Health & Aging Study, a collaborative project of NIA and Linda P. Fried, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
"Joint pain in the lower extremities is very common among older women and has a powerful impact on their function and overall quality of life," said Guralnik, who is chief of the NIA's Epidemiology and Demography Office. "The high prevalence of pain found in this study, coupled with the finding that many women with severe pain are getting little relief, is certainly cause for concern."
Researchers examined data on 1,002 participants in the Baltimore area
age 65 and older in the Women's Health & Aging Study, a longitudinal study
designed to examine the causes and course of disability among older women. At
the start of the study, participants had trouble in at least 2 out of 4
functional 'domains,' including mobility and basic self-care tasks. For this
analysis, researchers looked at the severity of pain reported by the women, who
Contact: Vicky Cahan
NIH/National Institute on Aging