The good work done by massage therapists nationwide could be in higher demand as the U.S. population ages.

A new study indicates that more than half of all older Americans – almost 19 million people – experience pain on a regular basis.

“Pain is common in older adults and one of the major reasons why we start slowing down as we age,” says lead investigator Kushang V. Patel, PhD, MPH, of the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement, and Effectiveness in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington, in a press release from Elsevier, which published the information in the journal PAIN.

“Interviews that included assessments of cognitive and physical performance were completed by trained survey research staff in the homes of study participants living in the community or in residential care facilities, such as retirement or assisted-living communities,” the press release stated. Among results:

• Bothersome pain afflicts half of community-dwelling older adults in the United States.

• The overall prevalence of bothersome pain in the last month in the study group was 52.9 percent.

• The majority of older adults with pain reported having pain in multiple locations, such as in the back, hips, and knees.

• The percentage of people with pain did not differ by age, even when researchers accounted for dementia and cognitive performance.

• Pain was strongly associated with decreased physical capacity. Older adults with pain, particularly those with pain in multiple locations, had weaker muscle strength, slower walking speed, and poorer overall function than those without pain.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), which was designed to investigate multiple aspects of functioning in later life and is funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Investigators conducted in-person interviews with 7,601 adults ages 65 years and older who were enrolled in the NHATS in 2011.

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