Massage therapy is effective at addressing pain and stiffness in older clients, as well as providing pain relief and respite at end of life. In new research, elderly patients receiving hospice or palliative care in the U.S. report widespread pain.

Researchers from the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) set out to determine the prevalence of pain, describe its treatment, and determine factors associated with any pain in older residents assigned to a hospice specialty unit bed or receiving services from a hospice/palliative care/end-of-life special program in U.S. nursing homes, according to an abstract published on

Participants were 303 sampled patients, 65 years or older, representing 33,413 individuals receiving hospice/palliative care, according to the abstract. Facility staff was asked if, in the past seven days, the resident had reported or shown evidence of pain.

Among the results:
• Cancer was the primary diagnosis in only 11.4 percent of residents

• Overall 36.6 percent had any pain in the previous week

• Among those with any pain, 86.4 percent received some analgesic; specifically, 65.5 percent received opioids, whereas 31.7 percent received acetaminophen

• Those with any pain compared with those without pain had shorter lengths of stay in hospice/palliative care, and were more likely to be incontinent of bowel and bladder

“Pain symptoms were present in more than one third of older nursing home hospice/palliative care residents despite the use of opioids in two thirds of those who had reported or shown evidence of any pain,” the abstract noted. “Additional future studies are needed to improve the management of pain in older residents receiving hospice/palliative care in US nursing homes.”

“Pain and its treatment in older nursing home hospice/palliative care residents” ran in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. (2010 Oct;11(8):579-83.)

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