Waking up and not feeling rested isn't just annoying. Researchers say that
"non-restorative sleep" is the biggest risk factor for the
development of widespread pain in older adults.
Widespread pain that affects different parts of the body – the main
characteristic of fibromyalgia – affects 15% of women and 10% of men over
50, according to previous studies.
To identify the triggers of such widespread pain, British researchers
compiled demographic data as well as information on the pain and physical and
mental health of more than 4 300 adults older than 50. About 2 700 had some
pain at the study's start, but none had widespread pain.
problems cost billions
The results, published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, show that
restless sleep as well as anxiety,
problems and poor
health play a role in the development of this type of pain.
Three years after the study began, 19% of the participants had new
widespread pain, the researchers found.
Combined interventions needed
This new pain in various parts of the body was worse for those who had some
pain at the beginning of the study. Of those with some prior pain, 25% had new
widespread pain. Meanwhile, 8% of those with no pain at the start of the study
had widespread pain three years later.
"While osteoarthritis is linked to new onset of widespread pain, our
findings also found that poor sleep, [memory], and physical and psychological
health may increase pain risk," concluded the study's leader, Dr John
McBeth, from the arthritis research centre at Keele University in
"Combined interventions that treat both site-specific and widespread
pain are needed for older adults," McBeth added in a journal news release.
Increasing age, however, was linked to a lower chance of developing
widespread pain. Muscle, bone and nerve pain is more common among older people.
Up to 80% of people 65 and older experience some form of pain on a daily basis,
according to the news release.
While the study finds an association between poor sleep and widespread pain,
it does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
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(Picture: Old woman in pain from Shutterstock)