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Widespread Pain & Adverse Cognitive Outcomes

Chronic Pain as an Early Indicator

Early detection for dementia or stroke risk could improve outcomes. In a retrospective cohort study reported in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, researchers used Framingham Heart Study data. After determining widespread pain, and those who were dementia-free at baseline, researchers followed up patients over a median of 10 years. Of 347 people with widespread pain, there were 188 cases of dementia (128 of which were Alzheimer’s) and 139 patients had suffered a stroke. As for increased risk, “widespread pain was associated with 43% increase in all-cause dementia risk…47% increase in Alzheimer’s disease dementia risk…and 29% increase in stroke risk.”

The study concluded that increased widespread pain risks were “independent of age, sex, multiple sociodemographic factors, and health status and behaviors. Clinicians should be made aware of these associations and seek earlier diagnosis to provide timely therapies for better outcomes.” Although the study had small numbers and may have had selection bias, “results must be considered hypothesis generating.” More research is needed, along with larger studies to determine if early pain treatment would alleviate risk.


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Holly Caster