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Back pain is common across all ages, genders and socioeconomic groups. In fact, it’s the third most common reason for doctor’s visits and the leading cause of disability worldwide. It can keep you from doing the activities you love and land you in bed or even in surgery.
And, if you’re a woman age 40 to 80, your odds of suffering are the highest of any group, with women living with more frequent and debilitating back pain than men.
Now, a new study has linked that persistent back pain you’ve been experiencing to your risk of death and it’s offering some insights you need to know.
The far-reaching impact of pain
The research, performed at Boston Medical Center and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, followed 8,000 older women for an average of 14 years. It’s the first study of its kind to measure the impact of persistent back pain on mortality.
The doctors first took baseline measurements of back pain in each of the women. Two years later, they measured back pain again and at four years, they asked the participants about their ability to perform common activities of daily living and then observed their performance.
And, they discovered that living with persistent back pain has a huge impact on women’s risk of dying early.
In fact, after accounting for all sociodemographic and health factors, the researchers found that women who live with persistent back pain have a 24 percent increased risk of death compared to women who don’t suffer back pain.
That back pain you’ve been living with is far more than an irritation — it could be a warning sign of early death.
Disability and mortality
So, what’s the association between your back pain and mortality?
Well, the research found that disability following the measurements of back pain explained much of the association with mortality. Three disability indicators that they found to have the largest impact were:
- Difficulty performing one or more basic daily activities, like walking short distances or meal preparation. This type of disability was linked to 47 percent of the effect of frequent persistent back pain on mortality.
- Slow performance of observed walking speed. This explained 27 percent of the association between back pain and the risk of death.
- Slow performance for repetitive standing up from a chair. This objective measure accounted for 24 percent of the effect.
When asked why persistent back pain has such a negative effect on lifespan, Eric Roseen, DC, MSc, a research fellow at Boston Medical Center and leading author of the study said, “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.”
Moving through the pain
This means that taking steps to improve your back pain symptoms could help you stay active, prevent weight gain, stave off disease and live longer.
And, the good news is that there are completely natural ways to do it.
If you’re living with back pain right now, check out the article I wrote on 5 ways to get rid of low back pain without drugs or surgery.
And, don’t forget to turn to advice from my colleague, Dr. Michael Cutler, to learn how to target the causes of your persistent back pain and use natural supplements to put it behind you.
Remember, that debilitating pain in your back you’ve been living with could be a sign that your life is at risk. Take steps now to overcome the pain, improve the health of your spine and ensure a long, active life.
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- Back Pain Facts and Statistics — American Chiropractic Association
- Back pain shows significant association with mortality among older women — American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)