Study Finds Chronic Pain Often Improves in Older Veterans, but Less Likely with Opioid Therapy

Study Finds Chronic Pain Often Improves in Older Veterans, but Less Likely with Opioid Therapy
Research published in The American Pain Society's Journal of Pain reports that while older military veterans frequently experience improvements in pain intensity over time, use of opioids for pain management, certain mental health conditions, and some pain-related diagnoses were associated with a lower likelihood of improvement. The article, "Predictors of Improvements in Pain Intensity in a National Cohort of Older Veterans With Chronic Pain," notes that the aging veterans are at especially high risk for persistent chronic pain, although little is known regarding the underlying factors associated with positive and negative outcomes over time. Older adults also have the highest prevalence of long-term use of pain medication, including prescription opioids. In this observational study, investigators at the VA Center to Improve Veterans Involvement in Care and Oregon Health & Science University sought to identify clinical and demographic factors associated with pain intensity symptom improvements in a national cohort of veterans age 65 and older with chronic pain. Drawing on work supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration, the researchers hypothesized that older age and comorbid mental health disorders would be associated with less improvement in pain conditions over time. The study's subjects included 12,924 veterans receiving treatment from the Veterans Health Administration who had persistently elevated numeric rating scale scores in 2010, and who had not been prescribed opioid painkiller drugs in the 12 months before joining the study. Participants were scored on the percentage decrease over 12 months in average pain intensity scores relative to
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