Back pain ups risk of early death by 13%

Sydney: Suffering from lower back pain? Be careful, back pain — approximately affecting 700 million people worldwide — is the leading cause of disability globally and may increase your risk of dying early by 13 per cent, researchers warn.

The findings showed that compared to those without spinal pain (back and neck), a person with spinal pain has a 13 per cent higher chance of dying early.

“Back pain should be recognised as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people’s longevity and quality of life,” said lead author Matthew Fernandez from the University of Sydney in Australia.

“This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening,” added Paulo Ferreira, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney.

An individual’s lifetime prevalence of back pain is nearly 84 per cent and more in older populations.

“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,” Fernandez explained.

However, the researchers do not yet know the reason behind the link between back pain and mortality. Spinal pain may be part of a pattern of poor health and poor functional ability, which increases mortality risk in the older population, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the European Journal of Pain.

For the study, the team examined 4,390 Danish twins aged more than 70 years.

No association was found between spinal pain and cardiovascular-specific mortality. The influence of shared familial factors also was unlikely.

In addition, the commonly prescribed medications for back pain such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs and even surgery was found ineffective in treating pain, but had side effects.

“The best treatment for low back is a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity. People need to get moving,” Ferreira said.