Chronic, widespread pain is a condition that brings clients to massage therapy. Researchers in Ontario, Canada, decided to determine why people with chronic widespread pain have an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

To do so, they examined the relationship between diet and lifestyle, and chronic widespread pain in people enrolled in the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study, which comprises individuals born in England, Scotland and Wales in the United Kingdom during one week in March 1958, according to an abstract published on

A total of 8,572 participants provided pain data at 45 years of age, of whom 12 percent reported chronic widespread pain, which was classified using the American College of Rheumatology definition for fibromyalgia, according to the abstract. Data were collected on diet and lifestyle at 33 and 42 years of age.

Among the results:

• Women with chronic widespread pain, compared with those without, reported an unhealthy diet, such as, fruit-and-vegetable consumption less than once per week, and fatty food and French fries at least once per day, factors that may have predisposed them to other chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

• Women with chronic widespread pain were also more likely to be unemployed or to have had high physical exertion at work, and elevated body mass index.

“The findings for smoking; body mass index; and, for women, diet, offer support for the hypothesis that lifestyle factors may partially explain the association between chronic widespread pain and cancer or cardiovascular disease,” the researchers noted. “Prospective studies are necessary to confirm this relationship.”

“Diet, lifestyle and chronic widespread pain: results from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study” was published in Pain Research & Management (2011 Mar-Apr;16(2):87-92.)

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