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Pain Shows Up as Parkinson's Sets In

Study Shows Pain Is Felt at Onset of Parkinson's Disease
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 8, 2008 -- Parkinson's disease has no known cure, although it is treated with several medicines. The movement disorder takes its time developing; it can go unnoticed for years, or show up initially as just a small shaking in your hand.

New research shows that another thing to look for as Parkinson's takes hold is pain.

The study, led by Giovanni Defazio, MD, of the University of Bari, shows that people with Parkinson's have more pain than those who are disease-free.

Researchers found that the pain seems to show up with the onset of the disease or shortly thereafter.

The research team looked at 402 patients who had Parkinson's disease, comparing them to 317 people who did not have the disorder.

The groups were similar in ages (mid-60s) and the proportion of men and women.

However, more Parkinson's participants had depression and medical conditions associated with pain symptoms, such as diabetes and herniated discs.

Taking into account age, sex, depression, and other medical conditions associated with pain, 70% of the Parkinson's patients said they experienced pain lasting at least three months, compared with 63% of the comparison group.

The type of pain that the Parkinson's patients most reported was related to "dystonia" -- involuntary muscle contractions.

Among the Parkinson's patients, 17% had dystonia. Dystonic pain was more commonly located in the leg, foot, neck, or shoulders.

When it came to pain that was nondystonic, rates were similar between Parkinson patients and the comparison group.

The researchers write that the brain area damaged in Parkinson's is also involved in pain perception, so this "might at least partly account for the increased risk of pain."

The average age for the onset of Parkinson's disease was 60.

The researchers write that pain should be considered an important feature of Parkinson's disease since it often begins at the onset of the disease or soon after.

They add that the findings could help lead to better treatment strategies for people with the disorder.

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