Pain at multiple body areas is a common problem affecting 7-13% of western population. Most studies indicate a female preponderance and association with psychological distress in these cases. Pain is usually present for many years. Generalised pain needs to be distinguished from various forms of arthritis. Pain in these conditions does not have exact localization and usually not restricted to joints. Patients may complain of pain in other areas such as bones, muscles and back. Although severity of chronic generalised or widespread pain can vary from one individual to another it does affect physical functions and emotions leading to diminished quality of life. Chronic widespread pain can occur in children too. These conditions have direct societal impact in addition to direct and indirect medical costs.
Causes of Generalised Pain
Various conditions can cause generalised pain. Some of these are listed below:
- Flu and many other viral infections including HIV
- Multiple myeloma and metastatic cancers
- Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders
- Anaemia, thyroid and calcium related diseases (Osteomalacia)
- Rheumatologic disorders - fibromyalgia, myopathies, systemic inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis
Chronic generalised pain (more than 3 months duration) needs a proper assessment and a few initial investigations. Coexistence with other problems such as fatigue, bowel irregularities and menstrual problem is also known. Widespread pain may be concomitant with diseases mentioned above.