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Could restless sleep cause widespread pain in older folks?

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."

This study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the article may contact

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:

Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Dr. John McBeth, please contact Chris Stone with Keele University at 01782 733375 or .

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 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

About Wiley

Wiley is a global provider of content-enabled solutions that improve outcomes in research, education, and professional practice. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners.

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE: JWa, JWb), has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia.

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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