The prevalence and management of low back pain across adulthood: Results from a population-based cross-sectional study (the MUSICIAN study)


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Abstract

SummaryAmongst the oldest old, severe back pain (but not back pain overall) is most common, and primary care consultation is more likely to result in pharmacological-only management.The aim of the current study was to determine: the prevalence of low back pain (LBP) and associated disability; the frequency of consultation to general practice; whether there were differences in management by age. We conducted a cross-sectional population study in Aberdeen city and Cheshire County, UK. Participants were 15,272 persons aged 25 years and older. The 1-month period prevalence of LBP was 28.5%. It peaked at age 41–50 years, but at ages over 80 years was reported by 1 in 4 persons. Older persons were more likely to consult, and the prevalence of severe LBP continued to increase with age. Management by general practitioners differed by age of the patient. Older persons (>70 vs ≤40 years) were more likely to only have been prescribed painkillers (odds ratio [OR] 1.74, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.28–2.35) or only pain killers with other medications (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.07–1.98). They were less likely to be prescribed physiotherapy or exercise (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.46–0.85) or to be referred to a specialist (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.57–1.04). Older persons were more likely to have previously received exercise therapy for pain, were less likely to be enthusiastic about receiving it now (P < 0.0001), and were less likely to think it would result in improved symptoms (P < 0.0001). It is important that older persons, who have the highest prevalence of LBP with disability and are most likely to consult, are receiving optimal pharmacological and nonpharmacological management.

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