Recent studies have found sufferers of back pain are 13% more likely to die early. PICTURE: Lianne Viau via Visual hunt

Recent studies have found sufferers of back pain are 13% more likely to die early.

Despite being a common problem across the world, scientists warn it could have grave consequences. New research suggests that sufferers are actually 13 per cent more likely to die early from any cause. And the findings could pose a significant threat, with painkillers recently found to be ineffective in treating the condition.

Few studies have examined the potential reduced life expectancy associated with spinal pain in an ageing population. But researchers from the University of Sydney assessed the link between death rates and spinal pain in 4,390 twins over the age of 70.

Writing in the European Journal of Pain, Study author Dr Paulo Ferreria said: 'This is a significant finding as many people think that back pain is not life-threatening. 'These findings warrant further investigation because while there is a clear link between back pain and mortality we don't know yet why this is so.

'Spinal pain may be part of a pattern of poor health and poor functional ability, which increases mortality risk in the older population. 'Policy makers should be aware that back pain is a serious issue - it is an indicator of people's poor health and should be screened for, particularly in the elderly. 'Dr Matthew Fernandez, also involved in the study, said: 'Back pain should be recognized as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people's longevity and quality of life.'

Back pain, ranked as the highest contributor to disability in the world, normally improves within a few weeks or months. It is believed to affect four in five people at some point in their lifetime, with most cases being caused by lifting heavy objects or bending awkwardly.

But half see a recurrence of the problem within a year, and for some people back pain can last for years or come back in waves. In the past most patients with back pain were prescribed some form of painkiller.

But recent research shows there are actually no effective drugs for the problem, and the only way to treat it is through stretching and exercises. Studies have shown paracetamol is ineffective against back pain, and more powerful opioid painkillers are both ineffective and highly dangerous.
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