Background: Musculoskeletal pain frequently occurs in more than one body region, with up to 80% of adults reporting more than one joint pain site in the last 12 months. Older people and females are known to be more susceptible to multiple joint pain sites, however the association of multisite joint pain with physical and psychosocial functions in this population are unknown.
Methods: Cross-sectional data from 579 women were analyzed. Women were asked “Which of your joints have been troublesome on most days of the past month?” Pain qualities were measured using the McGill Pain Questionnaire (Short Form) and PainDETECT, and health was assessed using the SF-36 and sociodemographic variables. Statistical analysis using generalized ordinal logistic regression included comparison of three joint pain groups: no joint pain, 1–4 sites of joint pain and ≥ 5 sites of joint pain.
Results: Two thirds of respondents had multisite pain (>1 site), and one third had ≥5 joint pain sites. Compared to women with fewer joint pain sites, women with >5 joint pain sites (multisite joint pain) had significantly poorer physical and emotional health-related quality of life, more severe pain, a higher probability of neuropathic pain, and a longer duration of pain. More than half of women in the multisite joint pain group were still employed, statistically significantly more than women with no joint pain. In the final model, pain duration, the number of medications, pain intensity (discomforting and distressing) and the physical component of health-related quality of life were significantly associated with increased number of joint pain sites.
Conclusions: Over one-third of older women in our sample had >5 painful joints in the last month. These women demonstrated significantly poorer psychosocial health, and increased medication use, than women with no or fewer sites of joint pain. Many women with multisite joint pain were still in the workforce, even when nearing retirement age. This study has important implications for future research into musculoskeletal pain, particularly in regards to womens health and wellbeing, and for clinical practice where there should be increased awareness of the implications of concurrent, multisite joint pain.
Author keywords: Pain — Musculoskeletal pain — Arthralgia — Aging — Women’s health — Quality of life — Epidemiology
Author affiliations: KdL, JEB, LP: Research Centre for Generational Health and Ageing, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW Australia; KdL,MF: Department of Chiropractic, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109 Australia; KdL, AW, AE, MF: Chiropractic Academy for Research Leadership (CARL), Sydney, Australia; AW: Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, SAR China; AE, AE: Unit of Intervention and Implementation Research for Worker Health, The Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; LP: Central Queensland University, LEAP Centre, Gladstone, QLD Australia; MLF: Institute for Bone and Joint Research, The Kolling Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW Australia; JH: Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark; JH: Nordic Institute of Chiropractic and Clinical Biomechanics, Odense, Denmark
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