Chronic pain is a significant problem for many older adults. Strategies for pain management appear to be limited, with the prescription of analgesic medication used most often to treat pain. Older adults, however, are often sensitive to adverse side effects from analgesic medications, so nonpharmacological strategies for treating pain are receiving increased attention. This review article summarizes results from studies that have examined whether improvements in pain occur after an exercise intervention. Limited research has been conducted, and it can be characterized as both experimental and quasi-experimental. In addition, pain has usually been a secondary variable assessed in conjunction with a number of other variables. Results from most studies indicate that improvement in pain can occur after exercise training, but several investigators did not find changes in pain after an exercise-training program. Even less research has been conducted with older adults residing in assisted-care facilities, and this research is limited by small sample sizes.
Kelli F. Koltyn
Jan M. Schroeder, Karen L. Nau, Wayne H. Osness, and Jeffrey A. Potteiger
Measurements of functional ability, balance, strength, flexibility, life satisfaction, and physical activity were compared among three populations of older adults (age 75-85 years). Sixty-nine subjects performed the Physical Performance Test (PPT). timed Up and Go. 1 repetition maximum (IRM) leg press and extensions, and Modified Sit and Reach. The Physical Activity Questionnaire for the Elderly and Satisfaction With Life Scale were also completed. No difference was found among the groups for life satisfaction. Individuals living in a nursing facility had poorer PPT scores, dynamic balance, leg extension strength, leg press strength, flexibility, and physical activity than individuals living in assisted-care facilities and the community. Assisted-care individuals had significantly lower PPT scores and leg strength than community-living individuals. The decline of ADL performance and physical activity may be accounted for by loss of strength, balance, and flexibility, all associated with a loss of independence.