Spine and Hip Fractures Raise Risk of Chronic Body Pain

By Pat Anson, Editor

Breaking a bone in your spine or hip may be so traumatic that it doubles your chances of developing chronic widespread body pain such as fibromyalgia, according to a large new study by British researchers.

The study, published in the Archives of Osteoporosis, utilized an existing health database of over half a million adults to investigate associations between fractures of the spine, hip or upper and lower limbs, and the development later in life of chronic widespread body pain. Researchers at the University of Southampton also considered the possible effects of other factors, including diet, lifestyle, body build, and psychological health.

They found that men and women who had a spine fracture and women who had a hip fracture were more than twice as likely to experience long term widespread pain than those who did not have a fracture.

"The causes of chronic widespread pain are poorly characterized, and this study is the first to demonstrate an association with past fracture. If confirmed in further studies, these findings might help us to reduce the burden of chronic pain following such fractures," said lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Southampton.

"Chronic widespread pain is common, and leads to substantial health related problems and disability. Past studies have demonstrated an increased risk of chronic widespread pain following traumatic events, but none have directly linked to skeletal fractures."

Physical and emotional traumas have long been identified as risk factors for chronic widespread pain. For example, people involved in motor vehicle accidents are at greater risk of developing fibromyalgia, and rates of chronic widespread pain are known to increase after major disasters such as a hurricane or earthquake. Until now, there was no evidence that bone fractures could trigger such a response.

“Interestingly, the associations appeared strongest for fractures at the hip and spine, compared with fractures in the upper or lower limbs,” wrote Harvey. “High levels of morbidity and decreased survival following a hip and spine fractures is well documented, as are the potential changes in body shape, such as kyphosis, leading to pain and respiratory difficulties following vertebral fracture.”

Data for the research was collected from the UK Biobank study, which maintains records on almost everyone who utilizes the UK National Health Service.