Spokane Journal of Business

Certain health conditions predict women's back pain

Incontinence, breathing problems, gastric issues can be omens, study finds

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Women with incontinence, respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal problems have increased risk for development of back pain, according to research reported recently in The Journal of Pain, the peer review publication of the American Pain Society.

Australian pain researchers reviewed case histories of some 7,500 young, middle-age and older women who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health and who reported no back pain during the preceding 12 months. They were followed for up to four years.

The study was intended to show that identifying some conditions that might predispose women to back pain later in life is one way to assist in prevention and help control the cost of a widespread and expensive health problem.

Results showed that women with preexisting incontinence, breathing difficulties, and gastrointestinal disorders were more likely to develop back pain than women without these afflictions. The prevalence of new back pain found in the study participants was 37 percent in the younger group, 39 percent for the middle-age women and 16 percent in the older group.

The authors noted it was clear from their data that associations between incontinence and respiratory disorders and back pain were attributable to changes in control of trunk muscles occurring over time. For example, frequent sneezing and coughing caused by allergies are associated with trunk muscle contraction and increased spinal "loading," which can lead to back pain.

Regarding the relationship of gastrointestinal problems and back pain, the authors explained that altered abdominal muscle activity is common in disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, and back pain might be a symptom of gastrointestinal problems.

However, the basis for this association is unclear.

Researchers claimed the study was the first to link incontinence, respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal problems with development of back pain in women. The implications of the findings for treatment options could focus on improving trunk muscle control to reduce potential for developing back pain, researchers said.

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