Pain in the musculoskeletal system affects the quality of life, physical activity and work ability in people with diabetes

Many Danes with diabetes struggle with pain in the musculoskeletal system, which affects their working life and their everyday life. In particular, people with type 2 diabetes are severely affected by muscle and joint pain. This is the conclusion of a new Danish study published in Primary Care Diabetes.

The Danish researchers have investigated how often people with diabetes experience muscle and joint pain and what significance the pain has on their lives.

Between 60 and 70% of the participants in the study had experienced some form of pain within the past month. The pain affected their ability to be physically active at work and in their free time, and 60% of the participants had changed their physical activity level because of the pain. Many sought treatments because of muscle and joint pain.

Pain in the musculoskeletal system is the most frequent cause of sickness absence in Denmark, and the most frequent reason why Danes leave the labor market before retirement age.

Jan Hartvigsen, professor and Head of Research at the University of Southern Denmark and senior researcher at the Chiropractic Knowledge Hub participated in carrying out the study. According to him, the aging population with more chronic diseases will lead to an increase in the consequences of pain over the next decades.

- Within the coming years, we will come to think of pain and pain treatment as part of a multi-disease picture that many people live with. We currently do not have treatments that can cure chronic pain, so the task will be to find out how we can help these people live a good life. Recent research shows that it is possible to a large extent, he says to the Danish publication Dagens Medicin.

The researchers carried out a questionnaire survey regarding pain among people with diabetes. In the questionnaire, the trial participants had to say whether they had experienced pain in the shoulders, elbows, hands, hips, knees and ankles within the past week or year.

3,767 people responded to the questionnaire. 2,141 of those who responded had type 2 diabetes, while 1,626 had type 1 diabetes.

60% of the participants in the study were men, and the participants ranged in age from 18 to over 70, with most in the age groups from 40 to over 70. The majority were either obese or severely obese.

The results of the study show that shoulder pain is frequent among people with diabetes. 30.5% and 30.8% of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes respectively said they had experienced shoulder pain within a week. The least frequent pain was elbow pain, which between 9.3% and 9.9% had experienced within the past week. Furthermore, 41.8% and 40.5% respectively had experienced shoulder pain within the past year.

In a concurrent study, the researchers investigated the connection between a diagnosis of diabetes and back pain. This study also shows that more people with diabetes have back pain compared to the general population. This study also shows that people with diabetes and back pain seek medical attention more often compared to people with only back pain or only diabetes. A large proportion of the study participants also say that they have been on sick leave for a long time due to back pain.

Two out of three people with long-term musculoskeletal pain have at least one other chronic disease.

Read the scientific paper by clicking on the link below.

Liaghat B, Folkestad L, Skou ST, Koes B, Hartvigsen J. Prevalence and consequences of musculoskeletal pain in the upper and lower extremities: A cross-sectional analysis of patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Denmark. Primary Care Diabetes. 2023