Patients with asthma and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have an increased risk for the development of long-term lower back pain, thus underscoring the importance of considering the overall health of all individuals who are experiencing long-term lower back pain. Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study based on the Stockholm Public Health Cohort (SPHC) from 2006 to 2010, and their results were published in the European Spine Journal.

The investigators sought to evaluate whether respiratory disorders increased the risk for troublesome lower back pain in individuals who had experienced no or occasional lower back pain at baseline. Adults >18 years of age who had responded to the SPHC survey 2006/2010 were included in the analysis. Study inclusion was based on a response to the following question: “During the previous 6 months, have you experienced low back pain?” Responses varied and included the following “No,” “Yes, a couple of days in the last 6 months,” “Yes, a couple of days each month,” “Yes, a couple of days each week,” and “Yes, every day.” Individuals who responded with either “No” or “Yes, a couple of days in the last 6 months” were defined as having no or occasional lower back pain.

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A total of 17,177 adults who reported no or occasional lower back pain in the previous 6 months were included in the study. Individuals who reported experiencing lower back pain more often than occasionally were excluded from the study. Of those who were excluded, 757 patients had asthma, 168 patients had COPD, and 46 patients had both asthma and COPD.

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Based on adjusted study results, those participants with asthma had a risk for troublesome lower back pain at follow-up (risk ratio [RR], 1.29; 95% CI, 0.92-1.81), but the risk was not statistically significant. However, patients with COPD did have a significantly increased risk for lower back pain (RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.13-3.56; P =.02). Last, patients with asthma and concurrent COPD also had a significantly increased risk for lower back pain (RR, 3.55; 95% CI, 1.58-7.98; P =.002).

The investigators concluded that these results “highlight the importance to consider the overall health of people suffering from [lower back pain], and to take the multimorbidity perspective into consideration.” Additional longitudinal studies are warranted to confirm the study findings.


Rasmussen-Barr E, Magnusson C, Nordin M, Skillgate E. Are respiratory disorders risk factors for troublesome low-back pain? A study of a general population cohort in Sweden [published online July 19, 2019]. Eur Spine J. doi:10.1007/s00586-019-06071-5

This article originally appeared on Pulmonology Advisor