Back Pain: Is There An Association With Mortality Among Older Women?

Back Pain: Is There An Association With Mortality Among Older Women?

By Staff.

Researchers have found that persistent back pain is associated with earlier death for older women.  That is based on a study by researchers at Brown University of more than 8,000 older women who were followed for 14 years. The population was controlled for important sociodemographic and health factors.

The women who reported frequent, persistent back pain had a 24 percent increased risk of death compared to women with no back pain. The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and is the first to measure the impact of back pain persisting over time on mortality.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and women aged 40-80 years have the highest prevalence of back pain. Also, women report more frequent and debilitating back pain compared to men.

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to measure disability after measurement of back pain. This allowed for a prospective analysis of back pain that persisted over time and later rates of disability, which may help explain the association between back pain and mortality,” said Eric Roseen, DC, MSc, a research fellow at Boston Medical Center and leading author of the study. “Our findings raise the question of whether better management of back pain across the lifespan could prevent disability, improve quality of life, and ultimately extend life.”

After taking baseline measurements of back pain, researchers followed up with participants two years later and measured back pain again. In year four, participants were asked about and observed doing common activities of daily living. The study found that disability following the measurements of back pain explained much of the association with mortality.

Specifically, difficulty performing one or more basic daily activities, like walking short distances or meal preparation, explained nearly half (47 percent) of the effect of frequent persistent back pain on mortality. Slow performance on more objective measures, like observed walking speed or repetitive standing up from a chair, each explained about a fourth of this association (27 percent and 24 percent, respectively). Of 8,321 women in the study, 56 percent died over a median follow up of 14.1 years. A higher proportion of women with frequent persistent back pain died (65.8 percent) than those with no back pain (53.5 percent).

While the study’s findings are consistent with prior studies that found older women with daily or disabling back pain had elevated mortality risk, why this association occurs remains unclear.

“Back pain may directly impair daily activities, but older adults could inappropriately avoid them due to fear of re-injury or worsening of symptoms. Being unable to perform, or avoiding, daily activities could lead to weight gain, development or progression of other chronic health conditions, and ultimately earlier death,” said Roseen.

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#2. I didn’t know there was a letter count so this is continuing. My family had an intervention (but wasn’t called that at that time. I went into rehab, was educated in why this happened and uncovered lots of issues I had suppressed. It all made sense. After a few years, going to L.A., my legs wouldnt work when I arrived even though I was able to get on the plane. It was end stage osteoarthritis in knees. I was in so much pain. The orthopedic didn’t want to do replacements because I was too young. I had to go on permanent disability. My MD started me on 10 mg. OxyContin. Over time I was increased to 80 mg q 12. It helped me do my ADL’s and other little things. I really didn’t have much alteration in my cognitive abilities but I was still in pain. After about 2.5 years they decided to do TKR. I had 1 in 11/05 And the 2nd in April, 2006.i had been on OxyContin for about 3,2 years total. So I told my MD I WANTED TO GO OFF MEDS. He didn’t think it would be possible and suggested Methadone. I said NO and I wanted him to wean me off. So we slowly weaned the dose and I was put in a psych hospital to get off the last 20 mg and adjust my antidepressant. It worked. He also gave me meds to control my withdrawal. I was ready to move on. Doing this is the the key to getting people off the drugs. Also education of patients and families.
I took them exactly the way they were ordered and I was lucky enough to get a doc who listened and didn’t just turn me loose. Fast forward 15 years and I am having such severe back pain I don’t know how much longer I can handle it without pain meds. I’m taking 800-1600 mg. of Ibuprofen 2x/day. I know that isn’t right but the alternative doesn’t look too promosing. Allowing someone to suffer when there are meds that help is barbaric and will definitely lead to more suicides. If the meds help you live another day with those you love make them available, monitor them and don’t treat them like like a low class drug if society. Please!!!


I have debated ad fought with myself about whether to tell my story or not because of fear of judgement and possibly losing the love of those I care about. My problem started with migraines and panic attacks in my 20’s. I became a RN because I wanted to help people. I was called. It was not a job. Over time because of many factors, my migraines and panic attacks increased. I would get migraines that lasted up to 10-12 days at a time. The pain was so excruciating and never let up. 24 hours a day, through school, being a mother and working the pain never let up. One day my doctor prescribed me Fiorinal for my headaches. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Not because it made me high, but it took my pain away. There are very few huge occasions and activities that I had during the next 35 years where I didn’t have a migraine or got one once the big event was over. I tri d so hard to fight through them and do what I said I would, but it came at a huge physical cost. So for awhile the Fiorinal (plain-no codeine) worked. But then when I would start feeling like one was starting, I’d take the med to keep it from developing. Then the med wasn’t working as well as it had before so I started to increase the dosage. I was also on Valium for my panic attacks which were also getting out of control. I was able to work when I took the meds with no problems with my judgement or care. I had also developed depression from the pain and anxiety. Suffice it to say I was a total mess whose life was falling apart. I ended up having to find other doctors to prescribe my meds because I was Running out early. My whole life was taken over by trying to have enough pills because by this point I really felt like I was a better me with the meds. I was getting in trouble for calling in sick so much. I missed a lot of my son’s activities because of the pain and everything. Nursing and my son were my life and I missed it all because of the pain and depression, anxiety and meds.


That’s one way to eliminate us older folks.


We need any and ALL pain sufferers to join together in a civil lawsuit against all, that are going against us, at this point I stay in so much pain, death would be a great gift, I’m sick of these [edit] dr.s who DON’T stand up for those who suffer, give me back my damn medyso I can possibly try and have a decent quality of LIFE!
Where is the damn alcohol epidemic????


I am sitting here in severe pain and I am angry that there are medications that can bring relief to me and countless millions.
First off it is illegal for The CDC,FDA,CDC and our elected officals for them to dictate the ability for our doctors what they can script to us who are suffering.
Our country is a Republic we the people are in charge they are not.
If we the people stand up and stop these groups we can it is fact they are using the media as propoganda to get the people on their side while millions in pain suffer and commit suicide.
Even if they have to lie which we People know they wiggle the facts in their favor to get the people to back them in their plight of removing any and all opioid medications We need mass petitions of chronic pain patients for our right to be treated humanely and our suffering should be fixed it is fixable.


I should be dead already!!!


I echo Terri James’ posted comment on several points. May I expand a little bit. (Okay, enough snickering about my weight. I’ll get to that issue soon enough!) Women, in general, are the nurturers and caretakers of the child(ren) born to her, as well as the nurturer and caretaker of her parents as they age and can no longer care for themselves. Often, she takes care of her mate’s parents as they age, too! With all this caretaking, who takes care of her?

I don’t have any fancy research study numbers to offer you, but I can tell you that I’m the one I’m referring to. I know the above scenarios happen to others across the country, and around the world, as well. I can also add many years of lifting, pulling, and positioning patients much bigger than me, before the advent of hydraulic lift devices.

If it sounds like I’m about to have a pity party or complain, I’m doing nothing of the sort. I’m convinced there is no greater reward for mothers than being a mother (and grandmother!). Taking care of my parents as well as his parents? I’d have it no other way. Finally, I wouldn’t have found the deep satisfaction in my life’s work doing anything other than what I was called to do.

But the reality is, my constant, sometimes nagging and sometimes excruciating back pain never goes completely away. My pain clinic still uses the archaic pain scale 0 to 10, and I’m all over the place on it at any given time (because we all know that particular pain scale doesn’t accurately reflect chronic pain). While it’s true I suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease, Degenerative Joint Disease, and Chronic Lymes Disease, the crux of the matter is the Fibromyalgia that increases pain, especially during the “Fibro flares.” I know you “get me,” all of you who suffer from Fibro.

I’m 62 years old now, overweight in the wrong places, and some days I can hardly move. I’m going to get some weight off and report to you my results Spring ‘19. I’m convinced that’s key.


This is so true..I have not seen a doctor for 15yrs.mostly cause I have seen the way my husband has been treated him having rare incurable painful disease. I have degenerative disc disease, kyphosis in neck,disc hitting spinal cord in hips shoulders lower back all give me excruciating pain.I can’t do house work or brush my hair without flare.but current climate makes me take to many insaids and try to get through. It hurts to hold my grandchildren! I believe I have gout also untreated.this has lead to me being house bound.If I see laws protecting pain patients then I will go get checked out if not then I will die without treatment.

Terry Ott

Does the study include consideration that people with chronic intractable and unrelenting pain are more likely to commit suicide because they are denied effective treatments either by the lack of insurance coverage or various laws pertaining to pain medications?


Don’t you just love researchers who use the phrase “….adults could inappropriately avoid daily activities like short walks and meal preparation…..leading to [weight gain and other health conditions and early death]. OK people live in my body and try and prepare meals daily! “INNAPROPRIATELY AVOID”. Yes I have been to rehab which cost $16,000 and been taught that activity isn’t dangerous for me but the reality is anything inviolving gravity ie,other than swimming and hydrotherapy puts me in intractable pain. Pain drains your energy, wrecks your sleep and physiologically causes low mood anxiety. My pain was generated by a double whiplash, vertebral compression at every level, a bruised Dural membrane (the membrane surrounding and protecting the brain), and considerably worsened by the type of ignorant medical abuse ie stress obtaining and sustaining appropriate pain care so many chronic pain patients are subjected to. I’m qualified in Psych Medicine so I know I can define and detect abuse. There are about 20 million Americans like Terri below with equally severe intractable chronic pain many with no clear explanation for it. Chronic pain is actually caused by a mistake in evolution that your body-mind wrongly thinks it still needs to be in a state of alarm because it’s been traumatised either physically or emotionally before. As my excellent Orthopaedic Physician told me when I asked him why he wears a fleece and trainers rather than a suit like other doctors “ because my patients have been broken by other doctors”- he was referring not only to lack of training in biokinetics (Terri below is spot on) to the quick fix back surgery which research shows more often than not worsens pain or generates chronic pain for life. Can we please have less fear of the injured and maimed and a little more compassion and pragmatism from researchers who are often young and naive PhD students. If they are qualified medics they should know better.


Even if I keeled over today, no one could say that it was an “early death” (I’m almost 82), but I will say this: if I’d had my current level of back/neck pain now 20 years ago, I might well not have made it this far and might have been part of the researcher’s conclusions. I’ve always had some degree of back trouble due to a congenital issue. I had 3 surgeries in my 20s when surgery was considered “The Answer” to back pain. It bought me some pretty good years, which I appreciate, but the chickens have come home to roost in my 80s. I probably didn’t care for my back the way I should have after the surgeries-until recently, I was a fairly independent type. I truly dislike being limited by pain and finding myself in the winter of my life at the “mercy” of oh-so-righteous medical personnel, pharmacists and officials who do not have a clue..


Another example of Western Allopathic medicine not seeing the forest for the trees.
When a person has back pain, there is always a small to large subluxation of the vertebrae going on.
Back specialists never seem to see this unless one has very pronounced, out of place vertebrae or a broken back…something they can cut on or inject steroids into.

Even a small subluxation cause nerve impingement and damage, causing organs and muscles to not get vital signals.
If steroids are used, this causes a breakdown of the adrenal glands, messing with many hormones and most especially, cortisol; the body’s natural steroid.
Combine this with debilitating, untreated pain and the daily trauma of that kind of life is extremely perilous.
Women, of course, have babies that cause incredible stress/injuries on the back and wind up with hyperlordosis.
It’s a mess


WOW….14 years stolen away due to back pain?

I would surmise that persistent pain must have a direct correlation with premature organ aging/failure due to excessive amounts of adrenaline/cortisol released into the body.

I wonder if there is something the top pharmaceutical companies and our government can do to rectify this? Something that exactly mimics the body’s own naturally occurring analgesic called Endorphins.

Hmm, I wonder what it could be? Maybe some substance found in nature, a drug that could be synthesized from an organic source like a plant.

I wonder what the answer might be?

Well what do you know, this research fellow at Boston Medical Center has predicted my early death! 😉
Back pain is not funny, please forgive me. Although I just had to smile.
Back pain is a very serious issue and yes more people should be educated on on how to prevent such from an early age. Of course I was not. For years I often did the work of two men put together when it came to moving large objects. I’m the kind of person that refuses to ask for help so yes I did most everything on my own and by myself. I have to look at our children in grade school. The amount of weight they carry on their backs everyday at school is unreal! Our 2nd and 3rd graders know how to make a YouTube video yet they have no earthly clue as to how to properly put their backpacks on or take them off by themselves or even how to handle them. I agree that early education on how to take care of one’s back is most important! These are the kinds of articles that should be published, these are the things that should be on Fox News, etc.. Early prevention verses predicting one’s death after it’s too late!