Links between High Bone Mineral Density and Low Back Pain
Low back pain is a common problem as people age. There are probably many causes of back pain in middle-aged and older adults. These authors studied how bone mineral density (BMD) relates to low back pain in middle-aged women.
The study looked at BMD and low back pain in more than 2,000 women in Japan. BMD was measured in the forearm. These measurements have been shown to be related to BMD in the spine. The women also answered questions about their health, back pain, and habits. As expected, the women had more low back pain as they got older. The authors found that smoking and lack of exercise were linked to low back pain. These findings support other research.
The authors also found that high BMD was related to low back pain. That's right, high BMD. Women with especially dense, strong bones were more likely to have low back pain. Women are used to hearing about the dangers of osteoporosis, which is a condition of very low BMD. It seems impossible that bones could be too strong! But this study suggests that might be true.
The authors say high BMD may make bones stiffer. Stiff bones may not be a problem in most parts of the body. But in the spine, stiff bones could put more force on the cartilage and soft tissues. This could explain why these women had more low back pain.
The authors say that more in-depth research is needed to prove a link between high BMD and back pain. They think that more attention should be paid to high BMD. The authors say that the healthiest levels of BMD need to be found. Doctors could then help their patients avoid both osteoporosis and low back pain.
Takashi Manabe, et al. Positive Relationship between Bone Mineral Density and Low Back Pain in Middle-Aged Women. In European Spine Journal. December 2003. Vol. 12. No. 6. Pp. 596-601.