Ignoring Chronic Pain May Lead to Early Death?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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When we think of pain, instigators that come to mind run the gamut from a simple skinned knee to a migraine to a broken limb to debilitating chronic pain from a variety of conditions and diseases and everything in between. Pain is difficult to define because there are so many variations and different people feel the same pain in different ways. But no matter what form it takes, pain does exist, and if the pain is chronic and interfering with your activities of daily life, ignoring it, according to a new study, could be a catalyst that increases your risk of early death.

How Chronic Pain Can Interfere with Daily Life

Do you take the parking-garage elevator at work because just the thought of climbing the stairs makes your knees ache? Do you sleep on a hard mattress because you know the soft mattress will throw your back out? Have you altered the way you dress or shower because your persistent shoulder pain won’t allow you to raise your arm above your head? Activities of daily life are those routine things you do each and every day. When you’ve had to make a change to one or more of those routines because it hurts too much to do it the way you used to, pain is interfering with your life. If the pain is constant or recurs often, this disruption to your life is an obvious sign that you need to do something about your pain.

New Research on the Risk of Chronic Pain and Early Death

The new study was published by a university and tracked more than 17,000 subjects aged 50 years and older who were drawn from two large existing cohorts. There were a number of factors measured: those reporting “any pain,” the level of that pain, the location or whether it was a more generalized widespread pain, the impact of the pain on the subjects’ daily lives, and more. A variety of adjustments were made, and the findings were analyzed. The results? The risk of death was not increased in those subjects with “any pain” or widespread pain. However, in subjects with “extreme” and “quite a bit” of pain and those who had chronic issues with pain that affected their daily activities, there was an increased risk of death due to any cause.

The upshot? The new study was rather broad and didn’t investigate the specific causations for chronic pain and early death, so further studies will need to follow to gain more understanding; however, there is enough here to encourage patients living with pain to have the reasons for their chronic pain investigated, especially if it is interfering with any routine activity in their life.

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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