What are common causes of pain near the end of life?

Katie Ortlip
Hospice Nursing

Most people think of pain when they think of dying. Yet not all dying people have pain. People dying of lung and heart disease, and old age, for example, may have some trouble breathing, but minimal pain. These symptoms can often times be relieved with small amounts of medication. Often, old conditions, such as arthritis, general achiness and bedsores from inactivity, and infections, cause discomfort. But, again, these can be addressed with small amounts of pain relievers, and other measures, such as massage and changing position regularly. Now, some people with advanced cancer have the potential for a lot of pain, from tumors pressing on organs and nerves, but there are many ways to control pain now, including morphine pumps. There is no excuse for someone to suffer from pain at the end of life. Getting hospice involved is one way to make sure of this!

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Arthritis was the single biggest predictor of pain: 60% of people with the disease reported troubling pain in the last month of life compared with 26% of those without arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, if arthritis prevalence rates remain stable, more than 41 million people will develop the disease by 2030, potentially resulting in more older adults suffering end-of-life pain.

Terminal illnesses included cancer, sudden death, heart disease and frailty (classified as living in a nursing home, recent hip fracture, and/or memory impairment). There was no relationship between the type of terminal illness and the amount of pain reported.

According to the National Pain Foundation, up to 80% of older adults report pain that is typically related to degenerative diseases like arthritis, but pain also may occur with cancer, circulatory problems and the nerve damage that can accompany diabetes, kidney, liver or thyroid disorders and shingles.

Continue Learning about Critical Care

Does Your ER Make the Grade? How the U.S. Rates
Does Your ER Make the Grade? How the U.S. Rates
If you have an emergency, you assume that your 911 services and ER will be ready to take care of you, right?  But what if they aren’t? Unfortunately, ...
Read More
What types of injuries are treated at a trauma center?
Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart InstituteLawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute
All types of injury may be treated at a trauma center. Staff members are trained to evaluate and tre...
More Answers
7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries
7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries7 Dangerous Emergency Surgeries
Some of the most common emergency surgeries can also be the riskiest.
Start Slideshow
What Affects Readmission Rates to Hospitals?
What Affects Readmission Rates to Hospitals?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.