Background Since chronic cough has common neurobiological mechanisms and pathophysiology with chronic pain, both clinical disorders might be interrelated. Hence, we examined the association between chronic cough and chronic pain in adult subjects in the Rotterdam Study, a large prospective population-based cohort study.
Methods Using a standardised questionnaire, chronic pain was defined as pain lasting up to 6 months and grouped into a frequency of weekly/monthly or daily pain. Chronic cough was described as daily coughing for at least 3 months duration. The longitudinal and cross-sectional associations were investigated bi-directionally.
Results Of 7141 subjects in the study, 54% (n=3888) reported chronic pain at baseline. The co-prevalence of daily chronic pain and chronic cough was 4.4%. Chronic cough was more prevalent in subjects with daily and weekly/monthly chronic pain compared with those without chronic pain (13.8% and 10.3% versus 8.2%, p<0.001). After adjustment for potential confounders, prevalent chronic pain was significantly associated with incident chronic cough (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.08–1.99). The association remained significant in subjects with daily chronic pain (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.06–2.11) with a similar effect estimate, albeit non-significant, in those with weekly/monthly chronic pain (OR 1.43, 95% CI 0.98–2.10). After adjustment for covariables, subjects with chronic cough had a significant risk of developing chronic pain (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.02–2.62) compared with those without chronic cough.
Conclusion Chronic cough and chronic pain confer risk on each other among adult subjects, indicating that both conditions might share common risk factors and/or pathophysiologic mechanisms.