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Profiling pain improves quality of life and saves money

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Elderly patients in pain are more likely to attend Elderly patients in pain are more likely to attend general practice

Targeting treatment and resources to elderly patients who are at risk of disability can improve their lives, a two-part study published in journal Age and Ageing has found.

The study of 8171 respondents aged 50 and over, living in a community setting found that 65% reported not often being troubled by pain.

Of the 2896 respondents that were often troubled by pain, four different pain profiles were identified using questions such as ‘does the pain make it difficult for you to do your usual activities?’, ‘do you have a number of pain sites?’ and ‘are you taking medication to control the pain?’.

These pain profiles can then be used to reduce unnecessary medical interventions, by prioritising patients who are most at risk of debilitating pain.

‘For too long we have treated pain as an entity in itself, instead of treating the person in pain,’ said Kieran O’Sullivan lecturer in physiotherapy in the department of clinical therapies at the University of Limerick and one fo the lead authors. ‘These papers illustrate that a range of demographic, health and psychological factors influence the impact of pain on a person.’

The study also suggested that identifying people with multi-site pain, or those with single-site pain which affects daily activities and requires medication, could prove helpful to healthcare providers. Those who experience regular pain are more likely to attend general practice.

‘By better matching pain treatment to the specific needs of each person, quality of life might be enhanced significantly while simultaneously reducing healthcare costs,’ added Mr O’Sullivan.

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