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Research shows restless sleep increases risk of pain in older adults

Tuesday March 11, 2014
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Nonrestorative sleep is the strongest, independent predictor of widespread pain onset among adults older than 50, according to a study by researchers in the U.K.

The study, published in Arthritis & Rheumatology also found anxiety, memory impairment and poor physical health among older adults might increase the risk of developing widespread pain. Arthritis & Rheumatology is a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

Musculoskeletal pain is more prevalent as people age, with as many as 80% of people 65 and older experiencing daily pain. Widespread pain that affects multiple areas of the body — the hallmark feature of fibromyalgia — affects 15% of women and 10% of men older than 50, according a past study in the journal Pain.

In their population-based prospective study, researchers led by John McBeth, PhD, from the Arthritis Research U.K. Primary Care Centre, at Keele University in Staffordshire, identified factors that increase the risk of the development of widespread pain in older adults. The team collected data on pain, psychological and physical health, lifestyle and demographic information from 4,326 adults older than 50 who were free of widespread pain at the start of the study — 1,562 subjects reported no pain and 2,764 had some pain. Researchers followed up with participants three years later to check for development of widespread pain.

At follow-up, 800 participants (18.5%) reported new widespread pain, results showed. The development of new widespread pain was greater in those with some pain at the start of the study; 679 (24.6%) with some pain and 121 (7.7%) of those with no pain at the start developed new widespread pain at three-year follow-up.

After adjusting for osteoarthritis, analyses found pain status, anxiety, physical health-related quality of life, cognitive complaint and nonrestorative sleep were associated with increased risk of widespread pain development. Increasing age was associated with a decreased likelihood of the development of widespread pain, the study found.

“While OA is linked to new onset of widespread pain, our findings also found that poor sleep, cognition, and physical and psychological health may increase pain risk,” McBeth said in a news release. “Combined interventions that treat both site-specific and widespread pain are needed for older adults.”

Abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.38284/abstract

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