Why back pain takes a bite out of your lifespan

There are a lot of ways to gauge how long you’re going to live…

You can look at your family tree. If your relatives lived to old age, you’re much more likely to make it there yourself.

You can take your lifestyle into account. If you’re eating well and exercising, the odds of a long life are in your favor.

You can assess your worldview. Optimists are known to beat pessimists in the longevity department.

But what about the condition of your back?

You wouldn’t think your back health could give you any serious insight into your lifespan. But the latest research shows it can. And let’s just say, a bad back is a bad sign.

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Women with back pain die younger

A new study from researchers at Boston Medical Center found that women with back problems don’t live as long.

Researchers tracked the health of 8,000 older women for 14 years. And women who reported frequent back pain were 24 percent more likely to die during that time.

This is alarming news since back pain is an epidemic among middle age and older women. It’s the leading cause of disability worldwide. And women between 40 and 80 are the people most affected by it.

So, how do you know if your back pain is bad enough to shorten your life?

Well, researchers found that if it’s interfering with your daily activities, there’s a good chance it will eventually interfere with your longevity too. If it prevents you from walking short distances or preparing your own meals, for example, that’s a warning sign your lifespan’s at risk.

Why does chronic back pain have anything to do with your lifespan?

No one knows for sure. But the best guess is that it keeps you sedentary. And you know how bad being sedentary is for your health.

Natural ways to banish back pain and boost longevity

This study is a great motivation to get lingering back issues sorted out before they take a toll on your overall health and longevity. I know that’s easier said than done. But there are safe and effective ways to improve back pain.

In fact, one 2016 study found that yoga and acupuncture are both effective ways to relieve chronic back pain. And a 2017 study backed up yoga’s growing reputation as a back-pain remedy. If you want to get started at home, give cobra pose a try. Or head to a yoga class. Many teachers create yoga classes specifically for people with back trouble.

Another 2016 study found that mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral therapy can get rid of chronic back pain too. In case you don’t know, mindfulness-based stress reduction is a practice that involves staying present and accepting the sensations and feelings you experience in the moment — including the uncomfortable ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychotherapy treatment that teaches you to change the thoughts and behaviors related to your pain.

These treatments combined could make your back pain more manageable, so it doesn’t interfere with your life… or lifespan.

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  1. Back pain shows significant association with mortality among older women — MedicalXpress
  2. Association of Back Pain with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Older Women: a Cohort StudyJournal of General Internal Medicine
  3. Live Long and Proper: Genetic Factors Associated with Increased Longevity IdentifiedScientific American


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.