Could restless sleep cause widespread pain in older folks?


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Posted on 13 February 2014

Researchers in the U.K. report that non-restorative sleep is the strongest, independent predictor of widespread pain onset among adults over the age of 50. According to the study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology (formerly Arthritis & Rheumatism), a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), anxiety, memory impairment, and poor physical health among older adults may also increase the risk of developing widespread pain.

Muscle, bone and nerve (musculoskeletal) pain is more prevalent as people age, with up to 80% of people 65 years of age 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 over age 50 according to previous studies.

Led by Dr John McBeth from the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Keele University in Staffordshire, this newly published population-based prospective study 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 4326 adults over the age of 50 who were free of widespread pain at the start of the study (1562 subjects reported no pain and 2764 had some pain). These participants were followed up three years later for the development of widespread pain.

Results show that at follow-up, 800 (19%) reported new widespread pain. The development of new widespread pain was greater in those with some pain at the start of the study; 679 (25%) of those with some pain and 121 (8%) of those with no pain at the start developed new widespread pain at three year follow-up.

Analyses determined that pain status, anxiety, physical health-related quality of life, cognitive complaint and non-restorative sleep were associated with increased risk of widespread pain development, after adjusting for osteoarthritis (OA). Increasing age was associated with a decreased likelihood of the development of widespread pain.

“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,” concludes Dr McBeth. “Combined interventions that treat both site-specific and widespread pain are needed for older adults.”

Access the full study on the Wiley Press Room here. (To access PDFs and embargoed stories you must be logged in to the Press Room before clicking the link. Request a login here.)

Full citation: “Predictors of New Onset Widespread Pain in Older Adults- Results from the Prospective Population-based NorStOP Study.” John McBeth, Rosie J Lacey and Ross Wilkie. Arthritis & Rheumatology; Published Online: February 13, 2014 (DOI: 10.1002/art.38284).

URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/art.38284

Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Dr John McBeth, please contact Chris Stone with Keele University at 01782 733375 or c.w.stone@keele.ac.uk .


Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK commented: “This important research sheds further light on the relationship between poor sleep and widespread pain, or fibromyalgia. Brainwave studies have shown that people with this condition often lose deep sleep, and in an experiment where healthy volunteers were woken during each period of deep sleep, a number of them developed the typical signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia. A combination of pain, sleep disturbance and anxiety or depression can turn into a vicious circle.

“However, research has also shown that aerobic exercise improves fitness and reduces pain and fatigue, and should also improve sleep and wellbeing.”


About the Journal

Arthritis & Rheumatology is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and covers all aspects of inflammatory disease. The American College of Rheumatology (www.rheumatology.org) is the professional organization whose members share a dedication to healing, preventing disability, and curing the more than 100 types of arthritis and related disabling and sometimes fatal disorders of the joints, muscles, and bones. Members include practicing physicians, research scientists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the ACR. For more information, please visit http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/art.


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