The prevalence and age-related characteristics of pain in a sample of women veterans receiving primary care.
Primary Health Care
Women's Health Services
Women veterans are a growing but understudied population believed to be at increased risk for pain problems. Because of risk factors and clinical observations, we hypothesized that women veterans might have a high prevalence of pain and, thus, sought to determine the prevalence of (and age-related variations in) pain and to characterize several key pain dimensions in a sample of women veterans.
Women with routine appointments at the VA Connecticut Women's Health Center were recruited for study. Participants completed a 59-item questionnaire that provided information about their demographic, clinical, and pain status, as well as use of health services.
Of 236 women approached, 213 (89%) completed the questionnaire. The mean age was 52 years, and most (78%) reported an ongoing pain problem. For those reporting pain, the mean duration of pain was 6 years, average pain intensity was 6.3 (range 1-10), and commonly endorsed pain sites included lower extremity (68%), low back (63%), and shoulder (48%). The most frequently endorsed treatment (by 80%) was analgesic medication use. Across the four age categories (20-35, 36-50, 51-65, and > or =66 years), pain prevalences were 64%, 89%, 83%, and 69%, respectively. Although pain intensity levels did not vary across age groups, older women (> or =66) reported using fewer pain treatments, including analgesic medications. Finally, those with (vs. those without) pain reported a greater number of medical and mental health visits in the preceding year.
This study documented a significantly high prevalence of pain among a sample of women veterans receiving primary care in a VA women's health clinic.