Study Investigates Burden of Chronic Low Back Pain

Chronic low back pain patients have a significantly increased comorbidity and health care cost burden, a new study finds.

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients have a significantly increased comorbidity and health care cost burden, a new study finds. The study, based on a retrospective analysis of the LIfeLink Health Plan Claims Database, was published online earlier this month in Spine.

The researchers identified 101,294 CLBP patients and matched each with a non-CLBP control based on age, gender, and region. The participants were 55% female and had a mean age of 47.2. Using the database, the researchers compared the following health care burdens during 2008 for the two groups: comorbidities, pain-related pharmacotherapy, and health care service use/costs (pharmacy, outpatient, inpatient, and total).

The results showed that CLBP patients had a higher comorbidity burden, including significantly higher frequency of musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain conditions, as well as conditions commonly associated with pain such as depression (13.0% for CLBP patients vs. 6.1% for controls), anxiety (8.0% vs. 3.4%), and sleep disorders (10.0% vs. 3.4%). Pain-related medication use was significantly higher among CLBP patients: opioids (37.0% vs. 14.8%), NSAIDS (26.2% vs. 9.6%), and tramadol (8.2% vs. 1.2%). Use of medication to treat conditions associated with pain (e.g., depression, anxiety, and insomnia) was significantly higher among CLBP patients as well. Finally, mean overall health care costs were significantly higher among CLBP patients: $8,386 vs. $3,607.