Fracture increases risk of widespread pain in the body

New research suggests that spinal and hip fractures may more than double the risk of chronic widespread bodily pain (CWBP).

“Chronic widespread pain is common and leads to substantial health-related problems and disability,” said lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, professor of rheumatology and clinical epidemiology from the University of Southampton. “Past studies have demonstrated an increased risk of chronic widespread pain following traumatic events, but none have directly linked [CWBP] to skeletal fractures.”

Researchers asked 502,656 people aged 40-69 years: “Do you have pain all over the body?” and “Have you experienced pain all over the body for more than three months?” Those that answered yes to both questions were considered to have CWBP.

Of these, 1.4 per cent reported CWBP and 4.6 per cent had a history of at least one limb, spinal or hip fracture. After adjusting for potential confounders, CWBP risk was almost three times higher in men (risk ratio [RR] 2.67) and more than double in women with a history of either a spinal fracture (RR 2.13) or a hip fracture (RR 2.19).

The absolute difference in CWBP between those with hip or spinal fractures (4.1 per cent) and without fractures (1.4 per cent) was 2.7 per cent.

“Given the vast number of fractures annually across the country, these figures still represent a significant disease burden overall,” the authors remark.

“The causes of chronic widespread pain are poorly characterised, and this study is the first to demonstrate an association with past fracture,” Professor Harvey adds. “If confirmed in further studies, these findings might help us to reduce the burden of chronic pain following such fractures.”

(Archives of Osteoporosis doi: 10.1007/ s11657-015-0252-1)

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