Skip to main content

Health disparities in chronic back pain and associated mortality seen in ischemic cardiac disease: a commentary

Abstract

Prescription opioid use for nonmalignant chronic pain has grown in the US over the last decade. Those with chronic back pain have a higher risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease than those without. Studies have demonstrated a higher prevalence of cardiac disease in adults who report chronic pain. In addition, there is research that supports some association with pain sites and cardiovascular morbidity. Studies have also shown a high-grade chronic neck pain to be more associated with cardiovascular conditions when compared to moderate or low-grade chronic pain. Given this information, it is important to assess pain medication burden present in those who have a diagnosis of coronary artery disease and chronic lower back pain.

Peer Review reports

Background

There are several diseases that have been associated with lower back pain, including heart disease, the number one cause of mortality in the US [1]. Some studies report coronary heart disease showing a relationship with back pain severity and death rate [2]. In addition, chronic musculoskeletal [3, 4] and diffuse pain have been associated with coronary artery disease [5, 6]. One study found those with sedentary lifestyle and classified within metabolic syndrome to have higher likelihood of developing nonspecific low back pain [7]. Chronic pain may be associated with increased risk of high blood pressure [8]. Pain that is uncontrolled may affect the sympathetic autonomic nervous system to release hormones that may cause stress on the cardiovascular system resulting in complications, such as elevated blood pressure, chest pain, or coronary spasms. Given results from previous research studies, we anticipate there to be a greater burden of pain medicine use in those who have a diagnosis of coronary artery disease and lower back pain.

Interventions

Implementing interventions within a hospital/clinic setting to study the association between a cohort of patients with coronary artery disease and chronic lower back pain when compared to people without any coronary artery disease, and the burden chronic pain medication use, has the potential to identify strategies to reduce opioid abuse. For example, using the electronic medical record to identify a subset of adults with heart disease who present to a chronic pain management clinic with symptoms of lower back pain and are on specific medication therapy (opioid burden). Factors such as, race/ethnicity, gender, education, income, disability, geography, sexual orientation, poor access to health care, and inequalities can play a major impact on health outcomes, health-related decision making, quality of life, and unnecessary health-care costs. It is important to evaluate whether or not disparities exist in those who use opioids and have coronary artery disease, to help address whether or not this group may have a higher burden of pain medication use and if this patient population may require alternative pain management options. Although patients have a diagnosis of pain, pain scores are patient-dependent and one may interpret specific symptoms differently than others, making the clinical decision to begin certain pain medications to be varied among various providers, particularly when patients present to clinic on several different regimens for pain control.

Conclusions

Implementing hospital/clinic-based interventions to determine the opioid burden in those who have chronic pain and coronary artery disease can help address strategies necessary to reduce opioid abuse in vulnerable patients who face several barriers to their care and are also high risk for mortality.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.

References

  1. 1.

    Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Manniche C. Is low back pain part of a general health pattern or is it a separate and distinctive entity? A critical literature review of comorbidity with low back pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2003;26(4):243–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0161-4754(03)00003-4.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Vogt M, Nevitt M, Cauley J. Back Problems and Atherosclerosis. Pittsburgh: Lippincott-Raven; 1997.

  3. 3.

    Von Korff M, Crane P, Lane M, et al. Chronic spinal pain and physical-mental comorbidity in the United States: Results from the national comorbidity survey replication. Pain. 2005;113(3):331–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2004.11.010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Parsons S, Mcbeth J, Macfarlane GJ, Hannaford PC, Symmons DPM. Self-reported pain severity is associated with a history of coronary heart disease. Eur J Pain (United Kingdom). 2015;19(2):167–75. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.533.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    McBeth J, Symmons DP, Silman AJ, et al. Musculoskeletal pain is associated with a long-term increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular-related mortality. Rheumatology. 2009;48(1):74–7. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken424.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Andersson H. Increased mortality among individuals with chronic widespread pain relates to lifestyle factors: a prospective population-based study. Disabil Rehabil. 2009;31(24):1980–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Citko A, Górski S, Marcinowicz L, Górska A. Sedentary lifestyle and nonspecific low back pain in medical personnel in North-East Poland. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1965807.

  8. 8.

    Bruehl S, Ok YC, Jirjis JN, Biridepalli S. Prevalence of clinical hypertension in patients with chronic pain compared to nonpain general medical patients. Clin J Pain. 2005;21(2):147–53. https://doi.org/10.1097/00002508-200503000-00006.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

None.

Funding

None.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

AP drafted, reviewed, and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ashruta Patel.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Patel, A. Health disparities in chronic back pain and associated mortality seen in ischemic cardiac disease: a commentary. Arch Public Health 79, 191 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-021-00710-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Back pain