Chronic pain may increase the risk of cardiac disease, but the extent to which confounding variables account for this association has yet to be satisfactorily established. This study aims to examine the possibility of an independent association between these 2 variables.
We applied logistic regression analysis to data from 8596 adults surveyed in a population study of the health of the population of England. The association between cardiac disease (angina and/or myocardial infarction) and chronic pain (pain lasting >3 months) was explored, taking account of 10 potentially confounding variables including the regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Participants reporting chronic pain (n=3023) were more likely to experience cardiac disease than those without pain: odds ratio (OR), 1.55; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.15-2.07. Subsets of participants fulfilling various criteria for high-intensity chronic pain demonstrated stronger associations with cardiac disease suggesting a “dose-response” element to the relationship: chronic widespread pain (OR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.42-7.68); higher-disability chronic pain (OR, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.71-3.23); and higher average chronic pain score (OR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.40-2.71). Adjustment for regular prescription of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs did not reduce the association of chronic pain with cardiac disease.
Patients reporting chronic pain, in particular those most severely affected, may be at significantly increased risk of cardiac disease. Future studies should focus on determining whether reducing the impact of chronic pain can improve cardiac health.