A link between chronic muscle pain and heart disease has been uncovered by researchers at Teesside University.
Investigating severe muscle pain in a large group of adults, they found that almost half of elderly people who suffer chronic musculoskeletal pain go on to suffer cardiovascular disease at some point in the future.
The team, led by Dr Cormac Ryan, is therefore calling for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain to be made a public health priority and the experts say it could act as a prevention strategy for cardiovascular disease.
A sample of more than 5,300 adults aged over 45-years-old who had participated in the Health Survey for England in 2008 was analysed with the help of academics in Northern Ireland and the United States.
Some 32.5% of those aged 65 and over reported having chronic musculoskeletal pain. Of these, 47% had cardiovascular disease.
In comparison, 28% who did not suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain had cardiovascular disease.
People in this age group with chronic musculoskeletal pain were also found to be 82% more likely to have cardiovascular problems than those who do not have the problem.
Middle-aged adults, aged between 45 and 64-years-old, who had chronic musculoskeletal pain were at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well.
Some 23% of those having chronic musculoskeletal pain go on to develop cardiovascular disease, compared with 14% who had not had chronic musculoskeletal pain.
“Musculoskeletal pain impairs movement, leading to the individual becoming more sedentary which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” explained Dr Ryan.
“Chronic musculoskeletal pain is also associated with increased inflammation activity within the body which could contribute towards atherosclerosis which is a hardening or narrowing of the arteries.
“It is also associated with obesity, via reduced physical activity and increased non-hunger related feeding, and obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
“Finally, chronic musculoskeletal pain is itself a stressful experience and the associated functional and socioeconomic consequences of chronic pain can also be stressful for the individual, again stress is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”