This was the heading of a new research publication from late 2018, that was the analysis of studies containing over 2.5 million study participants. The relationship between structure and function is well-established as a truism in modern thought. However, there has never been an analysis of so many individuals before, detailing the connection between musculoskeletal conditions and other chronic illnesses.
According to the researchers, it was already well-established that these types of problems run together. In other words, those with the issues assessed in the study (low back or neck pain, or hip or knee osteoarthritis), also more frequently have other non-joint related chronic illnesses as well.
In fact, the authors state the rate of “heart disease, neurological disorders, gastric ulcers and endocrine disorders” is higher in those with at least one of the known joint disorders described above. This was a primary motivation for performing their analysis, according to the authors.
So what they did was gather a collection of hundreds of relevant research papers. And those that met the strict criteria of the authors were statistically analyzed for their combined outcomes. These selected studies all started with a group of volunteers that had a known issue that included one of the above items, back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, or general osteoarthritis.
The selected studies all looked at common outcomes categorized as chronic disease, be it one of cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc. And where they found convincing evidence, was that the long-term outcomes of these patients was that they were developing significantly increased rates of cardiovascular disease.
The authors suggested several possible mechanisms for this finding. They noted that those with pain are often less active, and prone to the effects of inactivity.
They also noted the potential for cardiovascular concerns with many of the common pain medications used by these types of patients. Inflammation levels were also noted as a potential related element at play. The authors stated the following of the need to address these musculoskeletal problems:
“Considering their high global burden, addressing musculoskeletal conditions via public health strategies may have an impact on other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.”1
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1 BMC Med. 2018 Sep 25;16(1):167. Musculoskeletal conditions may increase the risk of chronic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Williams A, Kamper SJ et al.