Diabetes may be associated with higher risk for pain, study says

People with diabetes have a 35 percent risk of experiencing low back pain and a 24 percent higher risk of neck pain than individuals without diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Sydney, which published in the journal PLOS One.  

The research team conduced meta-analyses of eight studies, which showed people with diabetes are more likely to report low back pain and neck pain, according to an announcement by university officials.

Most adults experience low back pain during their lives and almost half suffer neck pain, according to researchers. Diabetes is an increasingly prevalent chronic condition— an estimated 382 million people live with type 2 diabetes, the World Health Organization reports, the most common form of this metabolic disease.

There was insufficient evidence in the review to establish a causal relationship between diabetes and back or neck pain, said Manuela Ferreira, PhD, the paper's senior author and associate professor at the university's Institute of Bone and Joint Research. The findings warrant further investigation of the association, he 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,” he said. “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 through its effect on blood glucose levels, and this connection should also be investigated. It also recommended healthcare professionals should consider screening for unknown diabetes in patients seeking care for neck pain or low back pain.