(HealthDay News) – In older adults pain is common and is associated with clinically significant declines in physical function, according to a study published in the December issue of PAIN.

Kushang V. Patel, PhD, MPH, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues determined the prevalence and impact of pain using data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, including in-person interviews conducted with 7,601 adults, aged ≥65 years.

The researchers found that 18.7 million older U.S. adults were afflicted by bothersome pain in the last month, with prevalence of 52.9%. No significant variation was seen in pain across age groups (P=0.21), even after adjustment for cognitive performance, dementia, proxy responses, and residential care living status. Women and older adults with obesity, musculoskeletal conditions, and depressive symptoms had higher pain prevalence (P<0.001). Nearly three-quarters of older adults (74.9%) with pain had multiple sites of pain. Grip strength and lower-extremity physical performance correlated with pain and multisite pain. After adjustment for disease burden and other potential confounders, there was a significant positive correlation for increasing sites of pain with slower gait speeds (P<0.001) compared to older adults without pain.

“Bothersome pain in the last month was reported by half of the older adult population of the United States in 2011 and was strongly associated with decreased physical function,” the authors write.

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