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Watch Out for Pain in This Body Part—Study Says it Could be Fatal

It is gender specific.

Everyone experiences the occasional body aches or pain. However, recent research from Boston Medical Center has found a link between women—but not men—with a specific type of pain and elevated mortality risk. 

According to the study, a systematic literature review published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine analyzing 11 studies with 81,337 middle-aged and older adults, women with severe back pain, the leading cause of disability worldwide, are at an elevated mortality risk compared to those without it. And, interestingly enough, the same relationship was not identified with men, leading researchers to believe that long-term consequences of back pain may differ by sex.

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The relationship between back pain and mortality was identified by researchers in a variety of ways including limitations in activities of daily living, and reduced physical activity that may lead to weight gain, the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, and leading to poor balance and falls, which can result in fragility fractures that in turn, can be associated with increased mortality. 

The researchers found that age did not appear to have an effect on the association between back pain and mortality, "an unexpected result considering past research showing the impact of back pain on disability increases with age," they explained in a press release accompanying the study. "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." 

"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," 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, explained in an email statement. "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."

The researchers note that future studies should focus on "the complex relationship between back pain, back pain treatment, mental health, disability, and mortality." Contact your doctor if you have back pain, And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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