• chronic pain;
  • non-prescription intervention;
  • nursing;
  • older people;
  • patient-centred;
  • patient-initiated

Aim.  To explore pain relief interventions used by older people with chronic pain in Hong Kong. The frequency and perceived effectiveness of non-prescription measures were also explored.

Background.  With increasing life expectancy, the incidence of chronic illness and chronic pain also increases. Chronic pain robs older people of their quality of life.

Design.  This was a descriptive qualitative study.

Results.  Forty-four older people (37 female and seven male) who were residents of a nursing home in Hong Kong took part in this study. Their ages ranged from 65 to 82 years, median age was 75 years. Almost 80% had experienced moderate to severe pain during the previous three months. The most common sites of pain were muscles and joints; 35% of subjects reported continuous pain, 27% reported pain associated with activities of daily living, and 38% reported pain during exercise but not at rest. Only a few of the study group had taken prescribed medication to relieve pain, and only two of the 44 subjects studied had used a combination of drug and non-prescription intervention for pain relief. The majority of participants used non-prescription intervention only and the most commonly used were topical analgesics with massage. The majority (58%) of the subjects perceived the used of non-prescription intervention to be very effective in pain relief.

Conclusions.  The prevalence of pain was found to be high among older people in this study. Yet, they were taking a pro-active and responsible role in treating their chronic pain by using non-pharmacological patient-initiated intervention; also older people perceive themselves to have control over their pain status.

Relevance to clinical practice.  This active role of older people in their pain relief is likely to enhance the effect of education seminars and workshops aimed at novel, non-pharmacological pain relief strategies for older people with chronic pain.