Researchers out of the University of Sydney published a study in the European Journal of Pain concluding that people with back pain have a 13 percent increased risk of dying (from any cause).
“Our study found that compared to those without spinal pain (back and neck), a person with spinal pain has a 13 per cent higher chance of dying every year. This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening,” said senior author Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira, physiotherapy researcher from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
The scientists studied 4,390 Danish twins aged 70 years and older to see if spinal pain increased the rate of all-cause and disease-specific cardiovascular mortality.
“As this study was done in twins, the influence of shared genetic factors is unlikely because it was controlled for in our analysis.”
“These findings warrant further investigation because while there is a clear link between back pain and mortality we don’t know yet why this is so. Spinal pain may be part of a pattern of poor health and poor functional ability, which increases mortality risk in the older population,” he said.
Lead author Dr. Matthew Fernandez from the Faculty of Health Sciences, said: “With a rapidly growing ageing population, spinal health is critical in maintaining older age independence, highlighting the importance of spinal pain in primary health care as a presenting symptom.”
“Back pain should be recognized as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people’s longevity and quality of life.”
Associate Professor Ferreira added: “Policy makers should be aware that back pain is a serious issue – it is an indicator of people’s poor health and should be screened for, particularly in the elderly.”
Recent research has also found that commonly prescribed medications for back pain are ineffective in treating pain and have side effects, as we’ve reported.
“Medications are mostly ineffective, surgery usually does not offer a good outcome – the best treatment for low back is a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity. People need to get moving,” Associate Professor Ferreira said.