Musculoskeletal pain, memory, and aging : Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings

Abstract: The general aim of the thesis was to investigate potential differences in memory performance between participants across the adult life span with and without self-reported musculoskeletal pain. Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a major health related problem in our society. A common complaint related to chronic pain is about cognitive difficulties in attention, memory, and decision making. A number of studies have demonstrated that people with pain also perform wors on tasks measuring, for example episodic memory, semantic memory, and working memory. The present thesis aimed at replying these findings, by using a non-clinical population based sample. the potential differences in memory performance between people with and without pain were examined across the adult life span, in order to disentangle potential pain by age interactions. This was made by using both cross-sectional and longitudinal data. Study I aimed at studying differences in episodic memory performance, semantic memory performance, and implicit memory performance, between people with and without musculoskeletal pain. Differences were found for all three memory systems, but disappeared after controlling for years of formal education. In Study II an extension of the first study was made, in which performance on a range of cognitive tests were analysed. General differences were demonstrated , but yet again, years of education together with depression ruled out the effects. The most robust effects were found for word comprehension and construction ability. Finally, Study III used 5- and 10 year follow up studies to examine change over time in cognitive performance as a function of pain. The main finding from this study was that semantic memory for the oldest is impaired over time as a function of pain. An additional analysis showed similar patterns, regardless of age, for construction ability.