There is limited knowledge about the prevalence of pain and its relation to comorbidities, medication, and certain lifestyle factors in older adults. To address this limitation, this cross-sectional study examined the spreading of pain on the body in a sample of 6611 subjects ≥65 years old (mean age = 75.0 years; standard deviation [SD] = 7.7) living in southeastern Sweden.
Sex, age, comorbidities, medication, nicotine, alcohol intake, and physical activity were analyzed in relation to the following pain categories: local pain (LP) (24.1%), regional pain medium (RP-Medium) (20.3%), regional pain heavy (RP-Heavy) (5.2%), and widespread pain (WSP) (1.7%).
RP-Medium, RP-Heavy, and WSP were associated more strongly with women than with men (all p<0.01). RP-Heavy was less likely in the 80-84 and >85 age groups compared to the 65-69 age group (both p<0.01). Traumatic injuries, rheumatoid arthritis/osteoarthritis, and analgesics were associated with all pain categories (all p<0.001). An association with gastrointestinal disorders was found in LP, RP-Medium, and RP-Heavy (all p<0.01). Depressive disorders were associated with all pain categories, except for LP (all p<0.05). Disorders of the central nervous system were associated with both RP-Heavy and WSP (all p<0.05). Medication for peripheral vascular disorders was associated with RP-Medium (p<0.05), and hypnotics were associated with RP-Heavy (p<0.01).
More than 50% of older adults suffered from different pain spread categories. Women were more likely to experience greater spreading of pain than men. A noteworthy number of common comorbidities and medications were associated with increased likelihood of pain spread from LP to RP-Medium, RP-Heavy, and WSP. Effective management plans should consider these observed associations to improve functional deficiency and decrease spreading of pain-related disability in older adults.