A community-based study of postmenopausal white women with back and leg pain: health status and limitations in physical activity

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Aug;57(8):M544-50. doi: 10.1093/gerona/57.8.m544.


Background: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of lower back pain and associated leg pain/numbness in postmenopausal Caucasian women and the relationship of these symptoms to health status and function.

Methods: A convenience sample of 573 white women enrolled in the Observational Study of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) in Pittsburgh completed a questionnaire on low back pain (LBP) and leg pain (LP) and its impact on their daily activity. For data analysis, this information was merged with that obtained under the standard WHI protocol.

Results: Almost half of the women (49%) reported having had LBP during the previous month: 8% had LBP only, while 41% had both LBP and LP. In 9% of women, the leg and back symptoms were alleviated by sitting. Among women with LBP during the previous month, those who also had leg pain were five times more likely to have had functional limitations, two to four times more likely to have consulted a clinician or taken medications, and more likely to have had prior spinal surgery or hospitalization than the women with no LP. Based on the Short Form-36, women with LBP/LP had significantly lower scores for physical function, physical role, and bodily pain than women with no LBP or with LBP alone.

Conclusions: Low back pain that radiates into the hip, buttock, or leg is relatively common in postmenopausal Caucasian women living in the community and is associated with decreased physical health status and with physical limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiopathology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Postmenopause
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires