Women with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or both report higher rates of chronic pain, which should be accounted for in the treatment received, new research shows.

In some cases, treating the ADHD might lower the pain, reported Karin Asztély of the Sahlgrenska Academy Institute of Neuroscience, Göteborg, Sweden, and associates. The study was published in the Journal of Pain Research.

The research included 77 Swedish women with ADHD, ASD, or both from a larger prospective longitudinal study. From 2015 to 2018, when the women were aged 19-37 years, they were contacted by mail and phone, and interviewed about symptoms of pain. This included chronic widespread or regional symptoms of pain; widespread pain was pain that lasted more than 3 months and was described both above and below the waist, on both sides of the body, and in the axial skeleton. Any pain that lasted more than 3 months but did not meet those other requirements was listed as chronic regional pain.

Chronic pain of any kind was reported by 59 participants (76.6%). Chronic widespread pain was reported by 25 participants (32.5%), and chronic regional pain was reported by 34 (44.2%), both of which were higher than those seen in a cross-sectional survey, which showed prevalences of 11.9% and 23.9% of Swedish participants, respectively (J Rheumatol. 2001 Jun;28[6]:1369-77).

Among the limitations of the latest study is the small sample size and the absence of healthy controls; however, the researchers thought this was compensated for by the comparisons with previous research.

Our findings highlight the importance of the health care professionals to address pain problems in this patient group and possible unrecognized ASD and/or ADHD in women with chronic pain,” they concluded.

The investigators reported no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Asztély et al. J Pain Res. 2019 Oct 18;12:2925-32.