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Pain Experience Changes During the Menopause Transition

Summary: Adults experience increased pain in middle age, which can have a significant impact on quality of life and contributes to increased health care visits and costs. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a long-term, community-based, multi-site longitudinal study funded, in part, by NINR. Pre-menopausal women were enrolled in SWAN in the mid-1990s and a wealth of clinical and psychosocial data has been collected annually. Researchers examined general bodily pain in the SWAN cohort across the menopausal transition. Women reported gradual increases in bodily pain from the beginning of the study, approximately 7 years prior to their final menstrual period (FMP), followed by gradual decreases in bodily pain to the end of the study, about 5 years after FMP. The baseline bodily pain measures taken at the beginning of the study were equivalent to the pain measures at the end of the study. In general, the increases and decreases in pain severity were not deemed clinically meaningful, but the changes in pain levels were statistically significant. Women reporting high levels of pain from menstrual cramps had the largest decreases in bodily pain in late menopause. As in many other pain conditions, women in SWAN with sleep disturbances and depression experienced the greatest increases in pain over time.

Citation: Pain Severity in Relation to the Final Menstrual Period in a Prospective Multiethnic Observational Cohort: Results from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. Lee YC, Karlamangla AS, Yu Z, Liu CC, Finkelstein JS, Greendale GA, Harlow SD, Solomon DH. J Pain. 2017 Feb;18(2):178-187. PMID: 27836812

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