University of Oulu

Lehti, T.E., Rinkinen, MO., Aalto, U. et al. Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Pain and Analgesic Treatment Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Changes from 1999 to 2019. Drugs Aging 38, 931–937 (2021).

Prevalence of musculoskeletal pain and analgesic treatment among community-Dwelling older adults : changes from 1999 to 2019

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Author: Lehti, Tuuli Elina1,2,3; Rinkinen, M.-O.3; Aalto, U.2,3;
Organizations: 1Primary Health Care Unit, Helsinki University Hospital, Ilkantie 10 B 22, 00400, Helsinki, Finland
2Social Services and Health Care Division, City of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
4Geriatric Medicine, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
5Geriatric Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
6Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-11-12


Background: Pain is undertreated in older populations. At the same time, increased use of opioids is of concern in the Western world.

Aims: We sought to analyze temporal trends in musculoskeletal pain and prescribed analgesic treatment among community-dwelling people aged 75–95 years using cross-sectional cohort data spanning 20 years.

Methods: The Helsinki Aging Study recruited random samples of people aged 75, 80, 85, 90, and 95 years in 1999, 2009, and 2019. In total, 5707 community-dwelling persons participated in the study. The participants reported their medical diagnoses, regular prescription medications, and the presence of back pain or joint pain within the last 2 weeks (never, sometimes, or daily). We compared analgesic use among participants reporting and not reporting musculoskeletal pain in 1999, 2009, and 2019.

Results: Of the participants, 57–61% reported intermittent or daily musculoskeletal pain. The percentage receiving a prescribed daily analgesic increased from 9% in 1999 to 16% in 2019. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) decreased from 1999 to 2019, while the use of paracetamol increased from 2 to 11%. Opioids were taken by 2% in 1999 and 3% in 2019. Of those reporting daily musculoskeletal pain, 20%, 35%, and 32% received regular pain medication in 1999, 2009, and 2019, respectively.

Conclusions: Pain remains undertreated in the community-dwelling older population, although the use of regular prescribed analgesics increased between 1999 and 2019. The use of NSAIDs has decreased, while the use of paracetamol has increased. Daily opioid use has remained modest.

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Series: Drugs & aging
ISSN: 1170-229X
ISSN-E: 1179-1969
ISSN-L: 1170-229X
Volume: 38
Issue: 10
Pages: 931 - 937
DOI: 10.1007/s40266-021-00888-w
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Helsinki including Helsinki University Central Hospital. This study was funded by the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, the Kunnanlääkäri Uulo Arhio Foundation, and Helsinki University Hospital VTR funding. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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