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    Closeup rear low angle view of an early 60's senior gentleman having some back pain. He's at doctor's office having medical examination by a male doctor. The patient is pointing to his lumbar region.

    Study links diabetes and back pain

    22 February 2019

    People with diabetes have a 35 per cent higher risk of experiencing low back pain and 24 per cent higher risk of having neck pain than those without diabetes, a study review by the University of Sydney has found.

    Their findings, based on meta-analyses of studies that assess the links between diabetes and back or neck pain outcomes, have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

    Most adults experience low back pain during their lives and almost half suffer neck pain at some stage. Diabetes is an increasingly prevalent chronic condition; an estimated 382 million people live with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

    There was insufficient evidence in the review to establish a causal relationship between diabetes and back or neck pain, the paper’s senior author Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira from the University’s Institute of Bone and Joint Research said. But the findings warrant further investigation of the association.

    ‘Diabetes and low back pain and neck pain seem to be somehow connected. We can’t say how but these findings suggest further research into the link is warranted,’ Professor Ferreira said.

    ‘Type 2 diabetes and low back pain both have a strong relationship with obesity and lack of physical activity, so a logical progression of this research might be to examine these factors in more detail. Our analysis adds to the evidence that weight control and physical activity play fundamental roles in health maintenance.’

    The paper also found diabetes medication could influence pain, possibly via its effect on blood glucose levels, and this connection should also be investigated. It also recommended health care professionals should consider screening for unknown diabetes in patients seeking care for neck pain or low back pain.

    ‘Neck and back pain, and diabetes, are afflicting more and more people. It’s worth committing more resources to investigate their interrelationship. It may be that altering treatment interventions for diabetes could reduce the incidence of back pain, and vice versa.’