Musculoskeletal Pain Characteristics and Objectively Measured Physical Activity in Older Adults

Yurun Cai, Fangyu Liu, Amal A. Wanigatunga, Jacek K. Urbanek, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Luigi Ferrucci, Jennifer A. Schrack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pain is associated with reports of restricted physical activity (PA), yet the association between musculoskeletal pain characteristics and objectively measured PA quantities and patterns in late life is not well understood. Methods: A total of 553 adults (mean age 75.8 ± 8.4 years, 54.4% women) in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) completed a health interview and subsequent 7-day wrist-worn ActiGraph assessment in the free-living environment between 2015 and 2020. Pain characteristics, including pain presence in 6x sites (ie, shoulders, hands/wrists, low back, hip, knees, and feet), pain laterality in each site, and pain distribution were assessed. PA metrics were summarized into total daily activity counts (TAC), activity fragmentation, active minutes/day, and diurnal patterns of activity. Linear regression models and mixed-effects models examined the association between pain characteristics and PA outcomes, adjusted for demographics and comorbidities. Results: Unilateral knee pain was associated with 184 070 fewer TAC (p = .039) and 36.2 fewer active minutes/day (p = .032) compared to those without knee pain. Older adults with shoulder pain or hand/wrist pain had more active minutes compared to those without pain (p < .05 for all). For diurnal patterns of activity, participants with knee pain had fewer activity counts during the afternoon (12:00 pm to 5:59 pm). Analyses stratified by sex showed that these associations were only significant among women. Conclusions: Our study highlights the importance of assessing pain laterality in addition to pain presence and suggests that pain interferes with multiple aspects of daily activity. Longitudinal studies are needed to assess the temporality of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberglae039
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • Accelerometer
  • Epidemiology
  • Mobility
  • Observational study
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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