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Increased back pain reported in people with diabetes, but the cause is unknown

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People with diabetes are more likely to report back and neck pain, according to a new study. However, it is not clear whether diabetes is the cause.

Back pain and diabetes are conditions most of us are familiar with. Approximately half the population will experience neck or low back pain at some point, researchers say.

Manuela L. Ferreira, of the University of Sydney led a review exploring the relationship of neck and back pain with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

While previous studies have shown people with diabetes are more likely to report chronic pain, Ferreira’s work expanded on these findings by reviewing multiple studies to gain a broader picture of the link between diabetes and back pain.

Data was analysed from across 11 studies, which consisted of people over the age of 18 with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The results showed people with diabetes had a 35% higher risk of experiencing low back pain and a 24% higher risk of experiencing neck pain.

Obesity is a key factor in the onset of type 2 diabetes and can also lead to an increased risk of developing low back pain, due to pressure excess weight can have on the body.

However, four of the studies reviewed took BMI into account and an increased back pain risk was still identified in people with diabetes compared to those with a similar BMI but without diabetes. Although obesity may have an important role, there are potentially other factors to consider.

The authors have called for future research to identify the exact cause of back pain in people with diabetes. They suggest looking at the impact of medications, such as insulin, which are known to affect blood flow and muscle mass, and may affect the functioning of the musculoskeletal system.

When acting alone, back pain and diabetes can have a significant impact on people’s lives, and a combination of both could cause even higher levels of psychological distress and disability. This highlights the need to understand what drives back pain in people with diabetes.

The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One.



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