Back Pain and Chronic Disease – Could there be a LINK? A research review
We know that 80% of the population in Australia will suffer with back pain sometime in their life. We are also aware that our ageing population is growing. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare document that 15% of our population is over 65years of age. This number is steadily growing.
In the 2018 Australian Health Report it states that:
- 26 % of females over the age of 65 have back pain
- 28 % of males over the age of 65 have back pain
- In the same report it was shown that only:
- 25% of people over 65 years meet the physical activity guidelines
- 48% of 18-64 year olds meet the physical activity guideline
Reduced exercise and physical activity and the fact that 72% of men and women over the age of 65 are overweight or obese, it isn’t a big stretch of the imagination to see how back pain can be a concern for this age group.
In the research paper written by Louis Sportelli in 2017 looked at the relationship between back pain in 579 Australian women between the ages of 61-66. The study was the first of its kind looking at the influence spinal pain has on the quality of life of Australian women. The results showed that there was an incremental increase in the risk of spinal pain associated with increasing comorbidity count. The study considered spinal pain an overall health burden.
Back pain, whether it’s pain in the neck, mid back or low back has an impact on the person, physically and emotionally. It also has a burden on society as people may miss work and may require medical intervention.
In the study the comorbidities included cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, mental disorders and obesity. The study showed that:
– Over 50% of women with spinal pain had 1-4 comorbidities
- Comorbidities were more common in females with back pain than with women without back pain
- 33.2% women with back pain had cardiovascular disease
- 20.3% women with back pain had mental disorders
- 70% women with back pain were overweight
- women with back pain were 2 times more likely to have diabetes
- women with back pain were 2 times more likely to have mental disorders.
Overall, women with spinal pain had significantly more disability and their physical and mental health suffered more. This is the first study of its kind and more research needs to be done. The mechanism of the increase in chronic disease with the increase in back pain is not clear at this stage. In my opinion, the compromise to the nervous system due abnormal spinal function and alignment may be part of the answer. Lack of movement through a lack of exercise and carrying excessive weight are two important contributors to stressing the spine, which in turn stresses the nervous system. Other research has shown that certain changes in spinal alignment, such as an increase in the sagittal curves, (forward hunching distortions) places pressure on organs in the chest cavity.
Looking after your spinal health should start from a young age. Keeping active, maintaining a healthy weight and seeing a chiropractor to maintain spinal function and alignment are important to help to prevent future health issues.