Younger Age at Menarche Increases Risk for Later Chronic Pain

Women who were younger at the time of their first menstrual period are more likely to report chronic pain in adulthood, according to a study published online March 1 in PAIN.

Charlotte I. Lund, from Oslo University Hospital in Norway, and colleagues used data from waves 6 (6,449 participants; 2007 to 2008) and 7 (5,681 participants; 2015 to 2016) of the Tromsø Study to examine associations between age at menarche and chronic pain among women aged 30 to 99 years.

The researchers found that younger age at menarche was associated with an increased risk for chronic pain (risk ratio for each year delay in menarche, 0.98 across samples). Absolute risk decreased by 1.1 to 1.4 percentage points per year, with a 12.6 percentage point difference in the absolute risk for chronic pain across the full range of reported ages of menarche — from 9 to 18 years. There were significant associations noted for age at menarche and chronic pain in the neck, abdomen, and arms, as well as chronic widespread pain. Pain duration was the only one of the 4 pain characteristics that was statistically significant.

“We conclude that age at menarche is an independent risk factor for chronic pain, site-specific chronic pain, and chronic widespread pain and [contributes] to the explanation of sex differences in pain,” the authors write.