Persistent Pain in Younger People Ages them by 20 Years

SAN FRANCISCO – Persistent pain in younger people ages them by 20 to 30 years in terms of physical abilities, a new study suggests.

The study established that people with pain develop functional limitations associated with aging at much earlier ages.

Researchers looked at data from 18,531 participants, aged 50 and older, who took part in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study.

The four physical abilities considered were: mobility, for example walking or jogging; stair climbing; upper extremity tasks and; activity of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating etc.) with or without help.

Twenty four percent of participants had significant pain (moderate to severe pain). Participants with pain across all four physical abilities, had much higher rates of functional limitations than subjects without pain.

Kenneth Covinsky, University of California, San Francisco said that those aged 50 to 59 with pain were far more comparable to subjects aged 80 to 89 without pain.

“Four percent were able to jog one mile and 55 percent were able to walk several blocks, making pain sufferers appear 20 to 30 years older than non-pain sufferers, Covinsky added.

Our study cannot determine whether pain causes disability or whether disability causes pain. We think it is likely that both are true and that pain and disability worsen in a downward spiral, said Covinsky.

These findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.