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Pain Linked to Functional Decline in Middle-Aged Adults

Last Updated: September 21, 2009.

In middle-aged adults, pain is associated with an accelerated decline in physical function, with mobility limitations similar to those decades older without pain, according to a study in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

MONDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- In middle-aged adults, pain is associated with an accelerated decline in physical function, with mobility limitations similar to those decades older without pain, according to a study in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Kenneth E. Covinsky, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues studied 18,531 adults ages 50 years and older who were enrolled in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study, 24 percent of whom had significant pain.

Among subjects ages 50 to 59 years, the researchers found that those with significant pain were significantly less able than those without pain to jog one mile (9 versus 37 percent), walk several blocks (50 versus 91 percent), and walk one block without difficulty (69 versus 96 percent). The authors further note that the subjects aged 50 to 59 years with pain had similar mobility limitations as subjects aged 80 to 89 years without pain.

"In summary, this population-based study of the epidemiology of pain and functional limitations across middle and late life found strong associations between pain and functional limitations across many decades of life," the authors conclude. "In terms of their degree of limitation, subjects with pain are similar to subjects without pain who are two to three decades older. Evaluation and management strategies for pain and functional limitation should consider the strong co-occurrence of these conditions."

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