Does Back Pain Kill? Study Claims It Could Be Indicator Of Early Death

Does Back Pain Kill? Study Claims It Could Be Indicator Of Early Death

There’s no question that back pain could be a source of extreme discomfort. And it’s not uncommon for people to complain that such pain is “killing them.” But a new study suggests that back pain could kill, in the sense that it may be a sign that people might die an earlier death than others.

A report from ABC News Australia took a look at the findings of the study, where Australian researchers analyzed health and death records belonging to 4,390 twins from Denmark aged 70 to 102-years-old. And based on what they had gleaned, the researchers determined that those who suffered from lower back pain were much more likely to die at a younger age than those who didn’t suffer from the condition.

Although back pain was not a significant cause of death among the patients whose records were reviewed, associate professor Paulo Ferreira of the University of Sydney said that the condition was more of a marker of early death than anything else.

“What we found is that people who have symptoms of back pain — and that includes lower back plus or minus neck pain — have a 13 percent more chance of dying compared to those who don’t have any symptoms in their lumbar spine.”

Ferreira added that the chances of back pain indirectly “killing” sufferers increased progressively as they aged, meaning the 13 percent higher chance of dying increases as a sufferer grows older.

“When we adjusted for other factors in the analysis in terms of statistical significance, this relationship reduced,” he explained. “It’s definitely a sign that if you have back pain, your health status is going to be much worse.”

According to, lower back pain treatment options may vary depending on the sufferer’s history, and how mild or severe the pain may be. Most of the time, such pains go away within six weeks, and patients do not need to undergo surgery. Typically, they are asked to perform special exercises as part of the treatment regimen, along with rest, heat or ice packs, and medications. Surgery is usually mentioned as an option if the back pain continues or worsens.

So what can people do to avoid back pain, and therefore, avoid dying at a younger age than expected, as the study’s results suggest? Ferreira believes that it may be as simple as living a healthy lifestyle and staying physically fit by engaging in “moderate to vigorous leisure exercise” such as walking and supervised strength exercises. That also applies to people already suffering from back pain, as he recommends that they remain physically active as opposed to resting in bed.

“Those people who exercise more often — and I’m talking about the sort of pleasure type of exercise, moderate to vigorous levels of activity — those people will have less chance of developing back pain. Even if you develop back pain and you are physically active, your prognosis is going to be much better as well.”

Regarding the use of medication to deal with back pain, the Sydney Morning Herald cited Ferreira, who believes that they may be more harmful than helpful to sufferers, and simple encouragement and support for sufferers in an effort to get them physically active is a useful tool in dealing with the condition. He added that relaxation exercises and meditation are also effective as stress could aggravate the symptoms associated with back pain.

“It’s not that it’s ‘in your head,’ it’s literally magnified in your cortex at the moment, so anything we can do to calm that down will reduce your symptoms,” added Nick Torrance, a physiotherapist from Sydney.

Given the shocking implication that back pain could kill in an indirect manner as a marker of a shorter lifespan, Ferreira stressed that people shouldn’t panic. The purpose of his team’s study was to underscore the importance of proper back pain treatment in order to stop the condition before it happens.

[Featured Image by Albina Glisic/Shutterstock]