Back pain is common in older people and is associated with functional disability and poor self-rated health. Older persons are under-represented in back pain research, and research on back pain in older persons from ethnic minorities is particularly sparse. We investigated differences in back pain characteristics, effects and medication use in a population-based sample of 335 Italian-born immigrants and 849 Australian-born men aged 70years and over. There were 189 (62%) Italian-born men and 507 (63%) Australian-born men who reported experiencing back pain in the past 12months. Despite no difference in the reported prevalence of back pain between the two groups of men, Italian-born men were more likely to report that their pain was frequent, severe and chronic. Italian-born men were also more likely to report having other sites of pain and that they had limited their activities in the past 12months due to back pain. Despite these differences, the use of analgesic medication was the same in both groups. Multivariate analyses showed that differences in pain characteristics and effects between the two groups of men were explained by socioeconomic factors such as years of education and occupation history.