Women are more likely than men to suffer chronic pain, with the highest rates seen in midlife. The symptoms that characterize menopause broadly affect health and well-being, but their contribution to chronic pain risk during this period is poorly understood. To address this gap in knowledge, we examined relationships between indicators of menopause symptoms and chronic pain among midlife women veterans, a population with prevalent chronic pain diagnoses and elevated risk for bothersome menopause symptoms.
This is a cross-sectional analysis of national Veterans Health Administration medical and pharmacy records. Using national medical and pharmacy records from women veterans aged 45 to 64 with at least one VA encounter during 2014 and/or 2015 (n = 200,901), we developed multivariable logistic regression models to examine associations between menopause symptoms (defined by menopause symptom-related diagnoses on ≥2 encounters and/or menopause hormone therapy use) and chronic pain outcomes, adjusting for age, race, body mass index, mental health diagnoses, and substance use disorders.
In this national sample of midlife women veterans (mean age 54.3 ± 5.4), 13% had menopause symptoms, 52% had chronic pain, and 22% had ≥2 distinct chronic pain diagnoses. In multivariable analyses, women with menopause symptoms had nearly two-fold odds of chronic pain (odds ratio 1.84, 95% confidence interval 1.79-1.90, P < 0.001) and multiple chronic pain diagnoses (odds ratio 1.79, 95% confidence interval 1.74-1.83, P < 0.001).
These findings raise the possibility within this vulnerable critical period, midlife women with a higher menopause symptom burden may be most vulnerable for chronic pain.