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Knee pain often accompanied by other aches

July 28, 2005

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Older adults’ knee pain is
usually not an isolated problem, but is more often part of a
constellation of chronic aches, a new study suggests.

In a survey of more than 6,000 adults age 50 years of
older, UK researchers found that 57 percent of those who
reported knee pain also had pain in at least two other body
sites, and these men and women tended to have more physical
limitations than their peers.

Only a minority of those with knee pain had that problem
alone.

It is “safe to assume” that most survey respondents with
knee pain had knee osteoarthritis, though some with widespread
pain may have had other conditions, Dr. Peter Croft, the
study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.

Osteoarthritis is the common, wear-and-tear form of
arthritis in which the cartilage cushioning the joints breaks
down over time, leading to inflammation, stiffness and pain.

Osteoarthritis in the knee could help create pain elsewhere
by affecting a person’s posture, gait or activity levels,
according to Croft. Obesity can also contribute to pain in
numerous body sites.

But in a more general sense, Croft said, factors like a
person’s general health and perceptions of pain help determine
whether pain — wherever it is — becomes chronic, and whether
discomfort develops in other parts of the body.

Older people, according to Croft, may commonly have a “pain
syndrome” affecting their joints, as opposed to an isolated
form of arthritis.

He and his colleagues at Keele University report their
findings in the August issue of the journal Arthritis &
Rheumatism.

Their survey included patients at three general practices
who indicated any body sites in which they had pain for at
least one day in the past month. The subjects also answered
questions about their general health, weight and symptoms of
depression and anxiety.

Overall, 41 percent said they’d had knee pain in the past
month, while 23 percent reported pain in other sites.

Of the men and women with knee pain, most had pain
elsewhere — usually affecting two or more sites, such as the
lower back, neck or hip. Those with multiple aches and pains
also reported more physical limitations.

It’s possible, Croft said, that treating knee pain will
help ease pain in other body areas. But, he added, it may also
be important to focus on general pain management for older
people with more widespread symptoms.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, August 2005.




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