Pain of the nerves, muscle and bone only becomes more common with age, and widespread pain affecting multiple parts of the body -- a condition called fibromyalgia -- is also more common among the over-50 set. Now, a new study shows a surprising predictor of experiencing this kind of widespread pain for middle-aged people: Sleep that still leaves people feeling unrested.
Researchers from Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre looked at how a number of factors were associated with developing widespread pain after three years. They followed 4,326 adults who were all over the age of 50 and gathered information on their health, lifestyle and demographics. None of the people at the start of the study experienced widespread pain (2,764 reported some pain, while 1,562 reported no pain).
After three years, 19 percent had new widespread pain, with people reporting just some pain at the beginning of the study being more likely to develop the widespread pain than those who reported no pain at the start of the study.
Researchers found that non-restorative sleep -- gauged by waking up feeling tired and worn out even after getting the usual amount of sleep -- "was the strongest predictor of new onset WP [widespread pain]," according to the Arthritis & Rheumatology study.
"We have previously shown that among persons with WP [widespread pain], restorative sleep predicted symptom resolution," the study said. "Together these data suggest that sleep may offer a modifiable target to improve outcome in this patient group."
After adjusting for osteoarthritis, other predictors of developing widespread pain included cognitive complaints, anxiety, pain status, and physical health-related quality of life.