Background and Objectives: Chronic pain, dementia, and depression may reduce activities of daily life in elderly people. We evaluated the correlation between pain intensity and daily activities, cognitive state, and depression, as well as their interrelationships in home-dwelling elderly people with chronic pain.
Methods: Forty-one elderly home-dwelling people who suffered from long-lasting pain, and who participated in a rehabilitation program, were enrolled. Severity of pain at rest and after pain-provoked motion was assessed on a visual analog scale (VAS, 0 to 100) and a 5-point verbal rating scale (VRS). Cognitive status was assessed with the mini-mental state examination (MMSE, 0 to 30), depression on the geriatric depression scale (GDS, 0 to 15), and functional ability in daily life was assessed with the Barthel Index (0 to 100).
Results: VAS and VRS scores correlated positively with each other. Rating pain at rest on the VRS (mean 1.0, median 1) correlated with severity of depression (GDS mean 5.4) (r = 0.3997, P < 0.01), while scores on the VAS did not. Pain ratings at rest did not correlate with the Barthel Index (mean 87.7), but the latter correlated positively with motion-evoked VRS pain scores (mean 2.8, median 3) (r = 0.42829, P < 0.01). The MMSE (mean 25.3) did not correlate with any pain parameter, but it correlated positively with the Barthel Index (r = 0.3660, P < 0.05). The Barthel Index correlated negatively with the GDS (r = −0.39969, P < 0.01).
Conclusion: In home-dwelling elderly people, chronic pain states do not seem to reduce daily activities as much as cognitive dysfunction and depression. The seemingly controversial finding of a positive correlation between daily activities and pain in motion, and lack of correlation with pain at rest, may be explained by a relatively low intensity of pain in our study people.