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BMC Fam Pract. 2017 Feb 7;18(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12875-017-0593-5.

Musculoskeletal pain and co-morbid insomnia in adults; a population study of the prevalence and impact on restricted social participation.

Author information

Research Institute for Primary Care & Health Sciences, Keele University, ST5 5BG, Keele, UK.
Research Institute for Primary Care & Health Sciences, Keele University, ST5 5BG, Keele, UK.
Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK.
Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, West Midlands, Birmingham, UK.



Comorbidity is common in patients consulting in primary care. Musculoskeletal pain and insomnia each increase the risk of the other. Co-occurrence may pose an increased burden on well-being. However, the prevalence and impact of co-existing pain and insomnia in adults living in the community who may present to primary care is unclear. The aim of this study was to report the prevalence of pain and insomnia in adults registered with primary care, and to examine the impact of co-occurrence on social activities.


This population-based prospective cohort study of adults aged ≥18 years (n = 1181) used health survey data collected via baseline and 12 month follow-up questionnaires. Baseline data on pain, insomnia (4 symptoms: delayed sleep onset, difficulty maintaining sleep, early waking and non-restorative sleep) and putative confounders and social activity restriction at follow up was collected. Associations between baseline pain, insomnia and restricted social activities (RSA) at 12 months were examined using logistic regression, with adjustment for confounders. Interaction terms between pain and each insomnia symptom were examined in final models.


Mean respondent age was 49.6 (SD ± 15.2) years, 55.7% were female. At baseline, 880 (74.5%) reported pain, 122 (10.3%) delayed sleep onset, 298 (25.2%) difficulty maintaining sleep, 188 (15.9%) early wakening, and 215 (18.2%) reported non-restorative sleep. At follow-up 200 (16.9%) reported RSA. Pain and each insomnia symptom were associated with RSA at 12 month follow-up; pain [unadjusted odds ratio (OR:2.3;95%CI:1.5,3.5), delayed sleep onset (OR:6.1;95%CI:4.0,9.1), difficulty maintaining sleep (OR:3.2;95%CI:2.3,4.4), early wakening (OR:4.1;95%CI:2.9,5.9), and non-restorative sleep (OR:4.0; 95%CI:2.8,5.8). Only delayed sleep onset (OR:2.6;95%C:1.5,4.5) remained significantly associated with restricted social activities in the fully adjusted model. There was a significant interaction between pain and delayed sleep onset (OR:0.3;95%CI:0.1,0.99; p = .049) and restricted social activity at 12 months in the final multivariable model.


Pain and insomnia commonly co-occur, resulting in greater impact upon subsequent functional ability. Delayed sleep onset is the insomnia symptom most strongly associated with reduced functional ability. Clinicians should be aware of the common co-occurrence of insomnia symptoms, inquire about sleep in patients consulting with pain, and offer interventions that target both sleep and pain.


Comorbidity; Insomnia; Musculoskeletal pain; Social activity

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