Older people’s use of non-pharmacological interventions for chronic, non-cancer pain and comfort


Background: Many older people experience chronic pain, so increased comfort and pain relief are important for older residents in assisted and/or supported-living environments. While several studies have found that people using non-pharmacological interventions without taking pain medication experienced significant differences in pain, the effect of non-pharmacological interventions on comfort and chronic pain in older people has not been studied.

Aim: To assess differences in comfort and pain among older people in assisted and supported-living facilities who had chronic, non-cancer pain and who used or did not use non-pharmacological interventions.

Method: A descriptive, comparative, cross-sectional pilot study with a convenience sample of 82 participants from 11 assisted and supported-living facilities. Three questionnaires were used to obtain data on the independent variable of use/non-use of non-pharmacological interventions and the dependent variables of perceived comfort and pain. Multivariate analyses of variance were computed to measure differences between the use/non-use groups, and Roy-Bargmann stepdown analyses were computed to further subdivide and analyse the groups who were using and not using pain medication.

Results: No significant differences were found in chronic pain and perceived comfort between participants who did or did not use non-pharmacological interventions if they were not also taking pain medication. However, when participants were also taking pain medication, chronic pain and perceived comfort scores were significantly affected by the use of non-pharmacological interventions. The most common non-pharmacological interventions were exercise, heat therapy, spiritual activity/religion and listening to music.

Conclusion: Older people using non-pharmacological interventions and taking pain medication had higher perceived comfort scores and lower pain scores than those using pain medication only. Relationships between non-pharmacological interventions and comfort should be explored further. With minor changes, this pilot study design could be used with a larger sample.


School of Nursing

Document Type





Chronic pain, Older people, Pain, Pain management

Publication Date


Journal Title

Nursing Older People