Musculoskeletal pain in adults born preterm: Evidence from two birth cohort studies

Eur J Pain. 2019 Mar;23(3):461-471. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1320. Epub 2018 Oct 31.


Background: Individuals born preterm are at risk of later developmental problems and long-term morbidities. There is conflicting evidence regarding musculoskeletal pain in young adulthood. We investigated the prevalence of self-reported musculoskeletal pain in young adults born across the range of preterm birth compared with a term-born reference group.

Methods: From two Finnish birth cohorts, 184 individuals born early preterm (<34 weeks), 350 late preterm (34 to <37 weeks) and 641 at term completed a self-report questionnaire of musculoskeletal pain at mean age 24.1 (SD: 1.4) years. Group differences were examined by logistic regression models adjusting for sex, age and cohort (Model 1), potential early life confounders (Model 2) and lifestyle factors related to physical (Model 3) and mental health (Model 4).

Results: The late preterm group had lower odds for reporting neck pain (0.73; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.56-0.96), which was further reduced when adjusting for early life confounders and lifestyle factors (Model 4). Odds for reporting peripheral pain were 0.69 (95% CI: 0.48-0.99, Model 4) in the early preterm group. The odds for reporting any pain, shoulder, low back or widespread pain did not differ significantly between groups, although odds for reporting widespread pain were 0.77 (95% CI: 0.58-1.03, Model 4) in the late preterm group.

Conclusions: We did not find evidence of increased prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in adults born early or late preterm. In contrast, our results suggest that adults born preterm have a slightly lower risk of reporting musculoskeletal pain, also when we adjusted for lifestyle factors.

Significance: Young adults born preterm do not have increased rates of musculoskeletal pain. Our findings rather suggest that these rates may be slightly lower than among those born at term.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult