People with back pain at 13% higher risk of dying prematurely

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Back Pain, Spinal Pain

Back pain is one of the most common health issue in the elderly and a new study has found that this common cause of disability puts old people at greater risk of premature death.

Researchers have published a study in the European Journal of Pain wherein they have revealed findings that indicate that older people with back pain are at a 13 per cent higher risk of premature death compared to their counterparts who do not suffer from this health concern.

Researchers at University of Sydney in Australia carried out a study of 4,390 Danish twins aged more than 70 years to investigate whether spinal pain increased the rate of all-cause and disease-specific cardiovascular mortality. They found that people with spinal pain are at 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 Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira, from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Researchers are quick to point out that influence of genetic factors are unlikely on the outcome because the study was carried out on twins.

Researchers said back pain should be recognised as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people’s longevity and quality of life and that policy makers should take this into consideration while developing national and state level medical policies.

Recent research has also found that commonly prescribed medications for back pain such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs are ineffective in treating pain and have side effects.

“Medications are mostly ineffective, surgery usually does not offer a good outcome – the best treatment for low back pain is a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity. People need to get moving,” Ferreira said.

Few studies have examined the potential reduced life expectancy associated with spinal pain in an ageing population, particularly after controlling for familial factors, including genetics.

This study follows previous research which found that people with depression are 60 per cent more likely to develop low back pain in their lifetime.

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