New research from Boston Medical Center identifies elevated mortality risk for women with back pain when compared to women without back pain. Back pain was not associated with mortality among men, indicating long-term consequences of back pain may differ by sex, the study suggests.
The overall findings suggest that mild back pain (pain that does not keep a person from exercising or doing daily activities) is unlikely to impact the length of one’s life, but risk of mortality was increased among adults with more severe back pain. Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, this new study raises the question of whether better management of back-related pain and disability, over time, may extend life, a media release from Boston Medical Center notes.
Back Pain – Mortality Pathways
Potential pathways between back pain and mortality were identified through the study, including limitations in activities of daily living, and reduced physical activity that may lead to weight gain and the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Back pain has also been associated with poor balance and falls, which can result in fragility fractures. Such fractures are in turn associated with increased mortality.
Nonpharmacologic treatments recommended for treating back pain include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and physical therapy. There is evidence that these treatments are effective for managing back pain and they are considered safe. Some treatments are known to have potentially serious side effects, such as opioids for pain management.
“I hope this study will lead to a better understanding of the long-term impacts of activity-limiting back pain on overall health and research to improve back pain treatment over the course of patients’ lives. Proper management of back pain is important, especially as the opioid epidemic has been exacerbated and the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people seeking medical care, stress-levels and the environments in which many Americans are working right now.”
— Eric Roseen, DC, MSc, director of the Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine
The systematic literature review on the association of back pain and mortality was followed by a meta-analysis of all-cause mortality in 11 studies with 81,337 middle-aged and older adults.
Effect of Age?
Age did not appear to have an effect on the association between back pain and mortality in this review, an unexpected result considering past research showing the impact of back pain on disability increases with age. The highest risk of mortality associated with back pain was observed in studies that only included women, and those that identified adults with more severe back pain.
Future studies should focus on the complex relationship between back pain, back pain treatment, mental health, disability, and mortality, the release concludes.
[Source: Boston Medical Center]