Diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidaemia as risk factors for frequent pain in the back, neck and/or shoulders/arms among adults in Stockholm 2006 to 2010 - Results from the Stockholm Public Health Cohort

Scand J Pain. 2017 Apr;15:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2016.11.005. Epub 2016 Dec 4.


Background and aims: Frequent back, neck and/or shoulder pain (BNSP) are common conditions which pose high burden for the society. Results from previous studies suggest that diabetes and hyperlipidaemia may be associated with a higher risk of getting such conditions, but there is in general, few studies based on longitudinal designs. The aim of this study was therefore to compare the risk of developing frequent BNSP in men and women with and without diabetes and/or hyperlipidaemia.

Methods: A longitudinal study based on the Stockholm Public Health Cohort was conducted based on subjects aged 45-84, who were free from pain at the mentioned sites in 2006 and followed up until 2010. The data in the current study is based on questionnaires, except socioeconomic status which was derived from Statistics Sweden. The exposure diabetes and hyperlipidaemia was self-reported and, a categorical variable was created; without any of the conditions, with hyperlipidaemia only, with diabetes only and with both conditions. The outcome frequent BNSP was defined using the following questions in the questionnaire in 2010: "During the past 6months, have you had pain in the neck or upper part of the back?", "During the past 6months, have you had pain in the lower back?", and "During the past 6months, have you had pain in the shoulders/arms?". All questions had three possible response options: no; yes, a couple of days per month or less often and; yes, a couple of days per week or more often. Those who reported weekly pain to at least one of these questions were considered to having frequent BNSP. Binomial regressions were run to calculate the crude and adjusted risk ratio (RR) in men and women separately. Additional analysis was performed in order to control for potential bias derived from individuals lost to follow-up.

Results: A total of 10,044 subjects fulfilled the criteria to be included in the study. The mean age of the sample was 60years and evenly distributed by sex. After adjusting for age, body mass index, physical activity, high blood pressure and socioeconomic status, the RR for frequent BNSP among men with diabetes was 1.64 (95% CI: 1.23-2.18) and 1.19 (95% CI: 0.98-1.44) for hyperlipidaemia compared to men with neither diabetes nor hyperlipidaemia. Among women the corresponding RRs were 0.92 (95% CI: 0.60-1.14) and 1.23 (95% CI: 1.03-1.46). Having both diabetes and hyperlipidaemia at baseline was not associated with increased risk of frequent BNSP. Diabetes and hyperlipidaemia seems to be associated with an increased risk for frequent BNSP and the risk may differ between men and women. Behaviours and/or biological underlying mechanisms may explain the results.

Conclusions: This study suggests that metabolic diseases such as diabetes and hyperlipidaemia may have an impact on the pathophysiology of frequent BNSP and thus, contributes to the knowledge in musculoskeletal health. Furthermore, it confirms that men and women may differ in terms of risk factors for BNSP.

Implications: Health professionals should contemplate the results from this study when planning primary prevention strategies.

Keywords: Back pain; Diabetes mellitus; Hyperlipidaemia; Neck pain; Shoulder pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / epidemiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / epidemiology
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology*
  • Sweden / epidemiology