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Back Pain and Diabetes

Identifying the explanation for lower back pain could be perplexing, especially if you could have diabetes.

Yes, back pain is common in individuals with diabetes. Based on the University of Sydney, individuals with diabetes have a 35 percent higher risk of experiencing low back pain. Back pain has many potential causes, a few of which overlap with the causes of type 2 diabetes, including obesity and lack of exercise. In some cases, resembling neuropathy, type 1 or type 2 diabetes could also be a direct explanation for back pain. And in other cases, back pain and diabetes may don’t have anything to do with one another.

For those who are affected by lower back pain, you’re actually amongst the vast majority of Americans—75 to 85 percent, in response to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. In almost 90 percent of cases, the pain is temporary and improves without undergoing surgery. But when the pain continues for greater than 12 weeks, it’s considered chronic and deserves skilled evaluation.

In case your pain appears to be chronic, it’s probably time to get medical help. And if you could have diabetes, it’s value knowing that your back pain could also be related to your metabolic health. There are several conditions that link diabetes and back pain:

In this text, we’ll explore the relationships between diabetes, back pain, and these related conditions. 

Common Risk Aspects: Obesity, Lack of Exercise, and Depression

There are several risk aspects common to each type 2 diabetes and back pain. 

It’s well established that an excessive amount of body fat might help result in type 2 diabetes. So can sedentary behavior. It’s also well established that obesity increases mechanical stress within the body, together with inflammation. A 2021 study explained that the increased load on the lumbar spine can result in disc degeneration and herniation, in addition to spinal stenosis — all of which express themselves as lower back pain.

Depression is one other sneaky common factor. There are significant bidirectional associations between back pain and depression, meaning that every condition might help cause or worsen the opposite. There’s also a 60 percent risk of depression related to each type 1 and sort 2 diabetes. The links between the 2 include poor adherence to therapy, lack of metabolic control, decreased lifestyle, increased disability, lack of physical activity, and the burden of managing its complications.

For many individuals, mental health issues stemming from diabetes management fall under the heading of “diabetes distress.” This will likely take the shape of losing interest or motivation in maintaining diabetes-related self-care, which incorporates not only taking insulin or medications, but in addition eating healthfully and exercising. If self-care is ignored as a consequence of depression or distress, it might result in weight gain, worsening lack of motivation, and, in turn, back pain.

The excellent news is that good diabetes management — maintaining a healthy diet food, exercising, and using medication properly — might help your blood sugar and your back pain at the identical time.

Diabetic Neuropathy

We commonly associate diabetic neuropathy with issues across the feet and legs, not necessarily the back. Neuropathy is a style of nerve damage; in individuals with diabetes, it’s attributable to chronically-elevated blood sugars.

But it’s also possible to have neuropathic pain within the back or spine that’s attributable to diabetes, says MercyHealth. The clinic notes risk aspects that include advanced age and being obese. 

Typically, neuropathy within the back or spine can manifest pain as cold, burning, deep pain; severe, shooting, or sharp pain; persistent tingling, weakness, and numbness; or pain that travels from the nerve path all the way down to legs, hands, or arms.

Neuropathy is amazingly common. A 2021 report explained that each type 1 and sort 2 diabetes can result in neuropathy in 90 percent of patients inside 25 years of diagnosis. Muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and pain are symptoms that steadily spread from the lower side of the body to the back and neck. “Diabetes and low back pain are connected,” noted the researchers, “and pain is one in all the leading symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.”

Lumbar Disc Degeneration

Lumbar disc degeneration (LDD) is when the spinal discs between your vertebrae wear down. The discs function as shock absorbers and once they wear away, the bones can rub together, causing back pain and potentially conditions like adult scoliosis, herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. When you hit age 40, disc degeneration is, to a point, pretty common, although not everyone seems to be symptomatic. But while it’s commonest in people over 40, one consider developing LDD is obesity. 

In 2018, a study reported that type 2 diabetes was a risk factor for LDD, holding that the length of type 2 diabetes had a “mild tendency” to develop more severe LDD than those that don’t have diabetes — and that the longer someone had diabetes, the more severe the disc degeneration can be. The study also reported that patients with higher blood sugar levels were more more likely to experience severe disc degeneration.

DISH or Forestier Disease

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) can also be generally known as Forestier disease. It’s a hardening of tendons and ligaments that commonly impacts the spine. Based on the Mayo Clinic, it might be related to type 2 diabetes, “perhaps as a consequence of insulin or insulin-like growth aspects that promote latest bone growth.” An estimated 11 million Americans over the age of fifty could have DISH, the Arthritis Foundation reported

While DISH doesn’t cause inflammation or attack joint cartilage, the hardened tendons and ligaments can form bone spurs where they connect with bones. It’s commonly treated the identical way as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease — with regular exercise and over-the-counter pain relievers, in addition to stretching to enhance stiffness and range of motion. If DISH is expounded to diabetes, it stands to reason that getting blood sugar and weight right into a healthy range might help slow its progression.


Most girls who’ve undergone menopause are aware of the chance of osteoporosis. It’s a disorder that causes bones to weaken, increasing the chance of broken bones. But, in response to Mayo Clinic, individuals with type 1 diabetes even have an increased risk for the condition since they have an inclination to have lower bone mineral density. Researchers don’t yet fully understand why that is the case, but hypothesize that insulin may play an element since our bones are known to play an element in blood sugar level regulation. 

Early on, there are rarely any symptoms, but as osteoporosis progresses, you possibly can experience lack of height, stooped posture, broken bones – and, yes, back pain if there are broken or collapsed bones within the spine. Osteoporosis risk occurs in later life. Authorities recommend physical activity and getting loads of calcium and vitamin D through a healthy food regimen and, if vital, supplements.

Getting a Diagnosis and Treatment

Because back pain could be attributable to so many possible conditions, individually or together, including diabetes, it’s vital to be examined by your healthcare provider. Based on MedCentral, once a physician has already established that you could have diabetes, they need to do a physical exam to ascertain if the back pain is neuropathic. Patients could also be asked to finish a pain-symptom body style chart to mark lines of pain.

There could also be other tests your doctor may recommend, from blood work to imaging. If DISH is a possibility, it’s normally diagnosed by X-ray, together with blood tests for inflammation. Lumbar disc disease could be diagnosed initially with questions asked by your healthcare provider about your pain, followed by imaging scans and a physical exam. 

It might be that your back pain is something that a life-style change can address. An exam together with your doctor may determine that good diabetes management that focuses on eating healthfully and exercising could help address your back pain.

In case your back pain is diagnosed as a symptom of neuropathy, there are several ways to administer it, starting with improving your mood with rest and good mental health. Yes, regular good sleep and a great mood will help reduce your perception of pain, in addition to higher manage your diabetes — and, if vital, your doctor may prescribe medication relief.  There are many options for treating neuropathic pain, including prescribed drugs, exercise, and topical treatments, though it might take much experimentation to seek out what works for you.

Finally, if you could have type 1 diabetes, it’s a great idea to consult with your doctor your potential for developing osteoporosis and the most effective ways to go it off. For those who’re older, ask your doctor if it’s appropriate to your bone mineral density, or BMD, to be scanned for osteoporosis and, in the event you get a diagnosis that you could have it, what the most effective treatments are. They could include low-impact physical activity like walking, swimming, and yoga.

Back pain is a posh issue to diagnose, and having diabetes can complicate that. Perhaps it’s related to diabetes, perhaps something else is the cause — or perhaps multiple issues are contributing to your pain. Your best plan of action is to see your doctor for an exam to find out, if not a right away diagnosis, a great treatment plan.


Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH). Arthritis Society Canada. September, 2017.

Painful Diabetic Neuropathy: SCS as a Latest Treatment Option. MedCentral. November 9, 2021.

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Osteoporosis. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dhaon P and Shah V. Type 1 Diabetes and Osteoporosis: A Review of Literature. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. March-April, 2014.

Osteoporosis. Mayo Clinic. September 7, 2023.

Osteoporosis and Diabetes. Diabetes.co.uk. October 29, 2023.

DISH: A Wrongdoer in Back Pain. Arthritis Foundation. April 21, 2021.

Degenerative Disk Disease. Cleveland Clinic. May 27, 2021.

Shahid S et al. Association of Diabetes With Lower Back Pain: A Narrative Review. Cureus. June 2021.

Yang H et al. Bidirectional Comorbid Associations between Back Pain and Major Depression in US Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. March 2023.

Bone and Joint Problems Related to Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. April 9, 2022.

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis. Cleveland Clinic. October 2, 2018.

Liu X et al. The Potential Effect of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus on Lumbar Disc Degeneration: A Retrospective Single-Center Study. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. March 14, 2018.

Baron R et al. Neuropathic Low Back Pain in Clinical Practice. European Journal of Pain. July 2016.

Low Back Pain. American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Study Links Diabetes and Back Pain. Orthopedic Design & Technology. April 8, 2019.

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