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Musculoskeletal Pain in Older Adults Linked to Quality of Life

Musculoskeletal PainElderly people are often affected by chronic pain conditions that severely impact their quality of life and overall well-being. Musculoskeletal pain in the elderly can be the result of a diverse set of conditions including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or spinal trouble.

Results from the North Staffordshire Osteoarthritis Project, published online in Rheumatology journal show that the more musculoskeletal pain sites older persons have, the lower is their health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The study investigated whether in older adults, the number of pain sites (NPS) was independently associated with poorer mental and physical HRQOL and whether the association was moderated by age.

Questionnaires were mailed to adults older than 50 years in North Staffordshire, United Kingdom. Participants were asked to answer questions on mental and physical health. The questionnaire included the 12-item Short Form Health Survey, a blank body pain manikin, socio-demographic, health behavior and morbidity questions. The researchers used the mental component summary scales (MCS) and physical component summary scales (PCS) of the Medical Outcomes Study 12-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) to measure mental HRQOL and physical HRQOL.

Participants also shaded sites of pain that lasted more than a day in the past 4 weeks on the manikin, the life-size anatomical model used as a teaching aid. Complete pain data was provided by 12,408 of the 13,986 participants who completed a questionnaire. Of those:

  • 8890 (71.6%) of respondents reported at least 1 pain site out of a possible 44
  • 669 (5.4%) reported a single pain site, 8221 (66.3%) reported pain at 2 or more sites
  • 6408 (51.6%) said they had pain at 4 or more sites

The median NPS reported was 4. General linear models showed that an increasing NPS was significantly associated with poorer MCS and PCS.

Researchers concluded that NPS represents not only a useful gauge of how much pain a person has but also the potential for interventions in improving and maintaining the quality of life.

Comprehensive pain assessment includes a review of medical history, physical exam, musculoskeletal MRI and other laboratory and diagnostic tests in order to understand the sequence of events contributing to the condition.

Adequate pain management programs can improve the quality of life and preserve the ability to carry out the activities of daily living. It can also keep the elderly healthier by allowing them to stay active and enjoy a normal social life.

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