BY KORIN MILLER
Chronic pain, i.e. pain that goes on for weeks, months, or years, isn’t rare. More than one in 10 Americans, or 25.3 million adults, suffer from pain every day, according to NIH data released in 2015. (Here are the six smartest ways you can beat it before resorting to prescription medication.) Chronic pain seems to be just that—a serious pain—but new research has found that ongoing pain is associated with an increased risk of dying early.
For the analysis, which was published in Arthritis Care & Research, researchers looked at data from two large population cohorts of 50-year-olds. They discovered that people who reported suffering from chronic pain had a nearly 30 percent increased risk of dying during the study. It got worse as the pain became more intense: People who said they had “quite a bit” of pain were 38 percent likely to die during the study, while those who were in “extreme” pain regularly had an 88 percent increased risk.
However, people who reported any kind of pain—but not chronic pain—didn’t have an increased risk of early death. Researchers say more studies are needed to figure out why chronic pain may increase a person’s risk of dying early.
While the numbers are shocking, the results aren’t necessarily. After all, it makes sense that people who are regularly in pain would be more likely to die earlier than those who don’t experience chronic pain. But the study makes an important case for seeking treatment when you’re uncomfortable versus simply writing off chronic pain as your new normal.
So, next time your back flares up again after a tough workout, get it checked out. It could have more of an impact on your overall health than you’d think.