Studies have examined the potential reduced life expectancy associated with spinal pain in an aging population.
People who suffer from back and neck pain in old age have a greater risk of early death, a new study has found. Research of nearly 4,400 people over 70 years old revealed that those with spinal pain were 13% more likely to die each year.
However, few studies have examined the potential reduced life expectancy associated with spinal pain in an aging population. The Sydney University scientists behind the new fi ndings said they did not know whether and how back pain causes early death.
But previous research has suggested that chronic pain can wear down people's immune systems and make them more vulnerable to disease. "This is a signifi cant fi nding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening," said lead author Dr Matthew Fernandez.
"These fi ndings 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."
Earlier this month, colleagues at Sydney University published research indicating that common over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen make hardly any difference to people with chronic back pain.
"With a rapidly growing aging population, spinal health is critical in maintaining older age independence, highlighting the importance of spinal pain in primary healthcare as a presenting symptom," Fernandez said.
"Back pain should be recognised as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people's longevity and quality of life." The study was published in the European Journal of Pain. It is often caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and for most people improves within a few weeks or months.