The team of researchers recently set out to examine how often knee pain is accompanied by pain elsewhere in the body and whether the presence of multiple joint pain affects older patients' general health and psychological status.

Led by Peter Croft of Keele University, UK, the authors surveyed a total of 5,364 patients aged 50 years or older who were registered with three general practices in North Staffordshire, UK. Each participant completed a questionnaire that included a body manikin on which they shaded any areas where they had experienced pain for one or more days during the last month.

A standard health survey used to determine the influence of pain elsewhere on general health was also completed, as well as an index to measure pain and disability specifically related to the knee. Obesity, anxiety and depression, all of which are linked to widespread pain, were also measured using various scales.

Of those surveyed, slightly more than one-third (1,909) ended up in the no pain group, 41% (2,210) in the knee pain group, and 23% (1,245) in the pain elsewhere group. Decreased physical function increased with the number of pains in the body, both in the knee and elsewhere. In those with at least 3 pain regions, the subgroup that included knee pain had worse physical function. This group was also more likely to be depressed than either those with no pain at all or those who had pain in a location other than the knee, even if it was in 3 or more regions.

The results indicate that knee pain does not tend to occur by itself, and that when it occurs with pain in other regions, it is associated with poorer general and psychological health. The results suggest a link between the extent of pain in the body and the impact of pain in a particular region.

"We have shown that knee-specific pain and disability are actually worse in the presence of pains elsewhere than the knee, even after accounting for poorer psychological health," the authors state.

MEDICA.de; Source: Arthritis & Rheumatism