The Australian Pain Management Association is concerned the fastest-growing group of Australians with chronic (persistent) pain are aged between 45 and 69 years, yet there is evidence that older people have less pain tolerance.
A document published by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and Faculty of Pain Medicine, Acute Pain Management: Scientific Evidence, reports that painful medical conditions (including arthritis, cancer and heart disease), along with greater need for surgery (which can result in long-lasting pain), are more common in older people. Yet studies of age-related changes in pain tolerance indicate a reduced ability in older people to endure strong pain.
‘This research tells us that severe pain – whether acute or chronic – may have greater impact on more vulnerable older people, which is worrying for those who do not have a strong support network of family, friends and healthcare professionals,’ says Elizabeth Carrigan, CEO of the Australian Pain Management Association (APMA).
‘Evidence also shows that conventional opioid analgesics work less effectively in older people, which questions the ethics of allowing up to one in every three members of our community to suffer without adequate pain medication.
‘National Pain Week should be an opportunity for all of us to look out for those in our social circle who are within this high-risk age group and open up conversations about their pain health and access to appropriate healthcare.’