Chronic Pain Ages Sufferers by Decades

A new study has found that people who suffer from chronic pain tend to have general physical capabilities similar to those decades older. When scientists reexamined data from a 2004 study on 18,531 people age 50 and over, they found that among participants 50 to 59 who did not suffer chronic pain, 37% of them could job a mile and 91% of them could walk several blocks with no trouble. But out of chronic pain sufferers in the same age group, only a mere 9% could job a single mile and only 50% managed to walk even a few blocks.

"We found that the abilities of those aged 50 to 59 with pain were far more comparable to subjects aged 80 to 89 without pain, of whom 4 percent were able to jog 1 mile and 55 percent were able to walk several blocks, making pain sufferers appear 20 to 30 years older than non-pain sufferers," said study leader Kenneth Covinsky of the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study sheds new light on what is now known as a huge problem for middle aged adults – chronic pain. It found that a chronic pain suffer who is 50 years old shares more in common with an 80 year old than someone of a similar age who leads a pain free life. While 24% of people studied suffered from chronic pain, it is thought that about 75 million U.S. residents endure chronic or recurrent pain. Common types of chronic pain include migraines (25 million U.S. residents) and arthritis (1 in 6 Americans.)

Unfortunately for sufferers of chronic pain, the condition is poorly understood. It has only been recently that doctors have even taken claims of chronic pain seriously, in many cases. Most experts now recommend physical exercise to combat many types of chronic pain. Others prescribe medication, though prescriptions for chronic pain often lead to unexpected negative consequences, such as addiction.

"Our study cannot determine whether pain causes disability or whether disability causes pain," Covinsky said. "We think it is likely that both are true and that pain and disability probably can act together in ways that make both problems worsen in a downward spiral."

The findings, announced today, are detailed in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

The research suggests pain and disability may often be part of the same underlying process.

"Patients may be better served if pain and disability are evaluated and treated jointly rather than treated as separate issues," Covinsky said.

If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain after an accident or injury, you may have legal recourse. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.