Low Back Pain
Associations of back and leg pain with health status and functional capacity of older adults: Findings from the retirement community back pain study
Article first published online: 29 AUG 2008
Copyright © 2008 by the American College of Rheumatology
Arthritis Care & Research
Volume 59, Issue 9, pages 1306–1313, 15 September 2008
How to Cite
Hicks, G. E., Gaines, J. M., Shardell, M. and Simonsick, E. M. (2008), Associations of back and leg pain with health status and functional capacity of older adults: Findings from the retirement community back pain study. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 59: 1306–1313. doi: 10.1002/art.24006
- Issue published online: 29 AUG 2008
- Article first published online: 29 AUG 2008
- Manuscript Accepted: 12 MAY 2008
- Manuscript Received: 9 AUG 2007
- Intramural Research Program of the NIH
- National Institute on Aging
Low back pain (LBP) is the most frequently reported musculoskeletal problem in older adults, but its impact on health status is not well understood. Our objective was to determine whether LBP and concurrent leg pain are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and function in a cohort of older adults, and to examine care-seeking behaviors related to LBP.
This was a population-based, cross-sectional survey study of 522 community-dwelling men and women (67.4%) ages ≥62 living in 4 retirement communities in Maryland and northern Virginia. LBP status in the past year was categorized as no pain in the low back or leg, LBP only, and LBP with leg pain. HRQOL and function were measured with the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36).
A total of 26.8% of the sample reported LBP only and 21.3% reported LBP plus leg pain. Participants with LBP and LBP plus leg pain had lower scores in all SF-36 domains, reflecting worse HRQOL (P < 0.0001). LBP and LBP plus leg pain were associated with 2-fold greater odds of falling and increased difficulty lifting grocery bags, walking several blocks, and bathing. LBP plus leg pain was associated with difficulty in social interactions (odds ratio 10.63, 95% confidence interval 3.57–31.60). Less than half sought care for LBP and those who did had poorer health status and greater pain burden.
LBP is common among older adults and strongly associated with reduced HRQOL and function. These findings argue strongly for both identifying cases of LBP by health care practitioners and pursuing effective treatments for LBP given the potential consequences.