Why study low back pain?
More than 50% of older adults live with chronic pain, and chronic
low back pain (CLBP) is one of the most disabling and
therapeutically challenging of these conditions. (1,2)
- A recent study showed that between 1992 and 2006, the prevalence of CLBP in community dwelling older adults increased by 109%. (3)
- In 2005, 33% of adults older than age 65 reported low back pain within the last three months. (4)
- CLBP in older adults leads to disability, problems with memory and cognition, depression, poor quality of life, and greater use of healthcare like visits to the emergency room and surgeons. (5,6,7)
- In a large community-based study of back pain in older adults, symptoms of depression were more common among individuals with back pain than those without. (8)
- In our own work, we have found that CLBP is the most common reason older adults are referred from primary care to a specialty pain clinic, further supporting the high prevalence of the problem. (9)
As people age, living with a painful condition becomes the norm, rather than the exception. Many people with pain, in particular low back pain, also have depression.
(1) Weiner DK, Sakamoto S, Perera S, Breuer P. Chronic low back
pain in older adults: prevalence, reliability, and validity of
physical examination findings. Journal of the American Geriatrics
(2) Helme R, Gibson S. Pain in older people. In: Crombie I, Croft P, Linton S, eds. Epidemiology of Pain. Seattle: IASP Press; 1999:103-112.
(3) Freburger JK, Holmes GM, Agans RP, et al. The Rising Prevalence of Chronic Low Back Pain. Arch Intern Med. February 9, 2009;169(3):251-258.
(4) CDC. Health, United States, 2007: With Chartbook on Trends on the Health of Americans. In: Prevention CfDCa, ed. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2006:266.
(5) Lawrence RC, Helmick CG, Arnett FC, et al. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and selected musculoskeletal disorders in the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 1998;41(5):778-799.
(6) Becker N, Bondegaard Thomsen A, Olsen AK, Sjogren P, Bech P, Eriksen J. Pain epidemiology and health related quality of life in chronic non-malignant pain patients referred to a Danish multidisciplinary pain center. Pain. 1997;73(3):393-400.
(7) Carey TS, Evans A, Hadler N, Kalsbeek W, McLaughlin C, Fryer J. Care-seeking among individuals with chronic low back pain. Spine. 1995;20(3):312-317.
(8) Cecchi F, Debolini P, Lova RM, et al. Epidemiology of back pain in a representative cohort of Italian persons 65 years of age and older: the InCHIANTI study. Spine. 2006;31(10):1149-1155.
(9) Karp JF, Reynolds CF, Butters MA, et al. The Relationship Between Pain and Mental Flexibility in Older Adult Pain Clinic Patients. Pain Medicine. 2006;7(5):444-452.