Study design: Clinico-epidemiologic study in the Chianti area (Tuscany, Italy).
Objectives: To describe prevalence and correlates of back pain in a representative sample of the population.
Summary of background data: Back pain is common in old age and is related to functional limitations, but back pain characteristics and correlates in older adults, which may be targeted by specific interventions, are still underinvestigated.
Methods: A total of 1,299 persons aged 65 or older were selected from the city registry of Greve in Chianti and Bagno a Ripoli; 1,008 (565 women; 443 men) were included in this analysis. Back pain in the past 12 months was ascertained using a questionnaire. Potential correlates of back pain were identified in age- and sex-adjusted regression analyses, and their independent association with back pain was tested in a multivariate model.
Results: The prevalence of frequent back pain was 31.5%. Back pain was reported less often by men and the very old, was primarily located in the dorsolumbar and lumbar spine, was moderate in intensity and mainly elicited by carrying, lifting, and pushing heavy objects. Among participants who reported frequent back pain, 76.3% had no back pain-related impairments; 7.4% of the overall study population had back pain-related functional limitation. Back pain participants were significantly more likely to report difficulty in heavy household chores, carrying a shopping bag, cutting toenails, and using public transportation. Limited trunk extension, depression, low levels of prior-year physical activity, and hip, knee, and foot pain were independent correlates of back pain.
Conclusions: Frequent back pain is highly prevalent in the older population and is often associated with conditions that are potentially reversible.