Sex differences in musculoskeletal pain in older adults

Pain. 2005 Aug;116(3):332-338. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2005.05.002.


Little is known about sex differences in musculoskeletal pain in older persons. There were 682 women and 380 men aged 72 years and older who participated in the 22nd biennial exam of the Framingham Study (1992-1993). Participants were asked to identify pain locations on a homunculus showing all regions of the body. Pain was categorized according to number of regions, with the most disseminated pain classified as widespread pain (back pain and upper and lower extremity pain with bilaterality). Among the women, 63% reported pain in one or more regions, compared to 52% of men. Widespread pain was more prevalent among women than men (15 versus 5%, respectively). In both men and women, pain was associated with fair or poor self-rated health, history of back pain before age 65, and disability. Factors associated with pain only in women included body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and depressive symptoms. In men but not women, pain was associated with polyarticular radiographic osteoarthritis. In conclusion, musculoskeletal pain was more prevalent and more widespread in older women than older men. Men and women differ in the factors associated with musculoskeletal pain in older ages. Further research is needed to understand sex differences in musculoskeletal pain the older population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics*