Prevalence, Incidence, and Factors Associated With Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain in Community-Dwelling Older Adults Aged 60 Years and Older: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Pain. 2022 Apr;23(4):509-534. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2021.07.012. Epub 2021 Aug 24.


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is common among older adults. This systematic review aimed to summarize: (1) the prevalence and incidence of CLBP in older adults, and (2) demographic, psychological, and clinical factors positively/negatively associated with prevalence/incidence of CLBP among older adults. Four databases were searched to identify relevant publications. Ten studies (31,080 older adults) were included after being screened by 5 independent reviewers using predetermined criteria. The methodological quality of these studies was evaluated by standardized tools. The quality of evidence for all factors were appraised by modified GRADE for cohort studies. Twenty-eight and 1 factors were associated with a higher prevalence and a lower 5-year cumulative incidence of CLBP, respectively. No prognostic factor was identified. There was very limited to limited evidence that females, obesity, anxiety, depression, mental disorders, self-expectation of recovery, self-perceived health status, lifestyle (smoking, daily fluoride consumption), previous falls or lower body injury, retirement/disability due to ill health, family history of body pain, comorbidity (knee osteoarthritis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with/without hypertension), weak abdominal muscles, leg pain, leg pain intensity, widespread pain, pain interference on functioning, use of pain medication, occupational exposure (driving for >20 years, or jobs involving bending/twisting for >10 years), disc space narrowing and severe facet osteoarthritis were significantly related to a higher prevalence of CLBP in older adults. However, very limited evidence suggested that intermediate level of leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower prevalence of CLBP in older adults. Given the aging population and limited information regarding risk factors for CLBP in older adults, future high-quality prospective studies should identify relevant risk factors to help develop proper preventive and treatment strategies. PERSPECTIVE: Despite the high prevalence of non-specific chronic low back pain among older adults, there is only very limited to limited evidence regarding factors associated with a higher prevalence of chronic low back pain in this population. Given the aging population, high-quality prospective studies are warranted to address this gap.

Keywords: Chronic low back pain; factors associated with CLBP; geriatric; older adults; protective factors.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Pain* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Independent Living
  • Low Back Pain*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies