Musculoskeletal Disorders and Depression Comorbidity More Common Among Working Aged Migraineurs

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Working age migraineurs are more likely to experience painful musculoskeletal disorders, such as fibromyalgia and depression, than those without migraine.

More than 38 million people in the United States experience migraine, with the condition being particularly common among the working age population. New study results point to working age migraineurs being more likely to experience painful musculoskeletal disorders and depression than those without migraine.

The study adds to the growing list of literature identifying increased comorbidities among migraineurs. Earlier this month, study abstracts presented at the annual Academy of Neurology Meeting found that chronic migraine, in particular, is associated with chronic pain, psychiatric, and endocrine/neurological comorbidities, as well as sleep disorders. In April, a study determined that women who have migraine are more likely to develop hypertension than those without migraine.

While past studies have indicated that musculoskeletal disorders and depression are common among migraineurs, it’s less clear how common these comorbidities are among the working age population. According to the authors of the study, determining the prevalence among this population is relevant because these comorbidities are reported to be common disabling conditions in the workforce.

To determine the occurrence and risk of musculoskeletal disorders and depression among working aged migraineurs, researchers analyzed data from the Health and Social Support Study that inquired about the psychosocial health of the Finnish working age population. The questionnaire asked participants to self-report 33 items and common disorders among the population. The first questionnaire was sent in 1998, followed by follow-up questionnaires in 2003 and 2012.


The final sample included 1505 migraineurs and 8092 controls. Researchers focused on the following comorbidities in the questionnaire: fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and sciatic syndrome. To assess depression comorbidity, the researchers used Beck’s depression inventory scores. If a participant scored higher than 18 points, they were considered to have at least moderate depression.

A greater proportion of individuals with migraine reported moderate depression than those without migraine (7.3% vs 3.4%). Depression was consistent across older and younger migraineurs.

The prevalence of painful skeletal disorders was also more common among migraineurs. A greater percentage of migraineurs reported fibromyalgia (6.1% vs 2%), rheumatoid arthritis (4.5% vs 2.6%), osteoarthritis (30.3% vs 19.7%), and sciatic syndrome (32% vs 18.6%). All 4 musculoskeletal disorders reported by migraineurs were more common among females.

Comorbidity also increased by age for migraineurs. Compared to women age 34 to 48, women age 54 to 68 had higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis (6.5% vs 2.7%), osteoarthritis (45.8% vs 11.2%), sciatic syndrome (38.3% vs 24.5%), and fibromyalgia (7.7% vs 6.3%).

Similar trends were seen in men, with men age 54 to 68 more likely to experience rheumatoid arthritis (2.9% vs 1%), osteoarthritis (28.9% vs 8.7%), sciatic syndrome (30.1% vs 24.3%), and fibromyalgia (2.3% vs 0%).

“Painful musculoskeletal comorbidities and depression associated to migraine are expected to decrease the quality of life and productivity in the working age population,” concluded the authors. “Comorbidities should be taken into account when assessing the therapeutic needs of a patient.”


Sumelahti M, Mattila K, Sumanen. Painful musculoskeletal disorders and depression among working aged migraineurs [published online March 14, 2018]. Acta Neurol Scand. doi: