A recent UK study found that while people are living longer these days, they’re also living more of those years with illness and disability. Back and neck pain topped the list of conditions likely to diminish quality of life, followed by coronary heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Overall Life Expectancy vs. Health Life Expectancy
The study compared overall life expectancy with health life expectancy (referring to the “quality years” when health problems are either non-existent or minor). The comparison of the two figures led to the following conclusions:
- Overall life expectancy is rising at a faster rater than health life expectancy
- The gender gap appears to be closing (with results nearly equal for men and women)
- On average, people spend a decade of their lives with serious conditions impacting their quality of life
Back Pain and Age
According to Los Angeles spine surgeons, age plays a part in some of the back and neck pain experienced among people 65 and older. Certain conditions also tend to develop later in life, compounding any newly experienced back and neck pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, can make the pain and inflammation associated with conditions like sciatica more debilitating. Degenerative conditions, like osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis, tend to get worse over time, further affecting quality of life.
More Contributing Conditions
Back and neck pain can be affected by lingering depression and chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes that often become more severe later in life. A combination of such conditions can affect overall quality of life when:
- Pain interrupts sleep (contributing to other health issues resulting from a lack of productive sleep)
- Pain or increasing discomfort affects mood (or overall emotional health)
- Intermittent pain is aggravated by movements (making everyday activities increasingly painful)
What do such findings mean for back and neck pain suffers? At the very least, these results serve as a reminder not to dismiss pain that doesn’t go away within a day or two since early treatment increases the likelihood of meaningful recovery. Advances in technology and the overall approach to treating patients with back and neck discomfort are also helping to improve quality of life.
If chronic neck and back pain is affecting your quality of life, it might be time to speak with a board-certified spine physician like Dr. Hyun Bae, Medical Director at The Spine Institute Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Bae specializes in both traditional spinal fusion procedures as well as spine treatments that preserve range of motion, allowing patients to continue with their active lifestyles soon after surgery.