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At 3 months’ follow-up, 61% of older back pain patients reported non-recovery. Baseline characteristics that were associated with non-recovery at 3 months’ follow-up were identified.The aim of the current study was to determine the course of back pain in older patients and identify prognostic factors for non-recovery at 3 months’ follow-up. We conducted a prospective cohort study (the BACE study) of patients aged >55 years visiting a general practitioner (GP) with a new episode of back pain in the Netherlands. The course of back pain was described in terms of self-perceived recovery, pain severity, disability, pain medication, and GP visits at 6 weeks’ and 3 months’ follow-up. Prognostic factors for non-recovery at 3 months’ follow-up were derived from the baseline questionnaire and physical examination. Variables with a prognostic value were identified with multivariable logistic regression analysis (method backward), and an area under the receiver operating curve (AUC) was calculated for the prognostic model. A total of 675 back pain patients (mean age 66.4 (SD 7.6) years) participated in the BACE cohort study. At 6 weeks’ follow-up 64% of the patients reported non-recovery from back pain. At 3 months’ follow-up 61% still reported non-recovery, but only 26% of these patients had revisited the GP. Longer duration of the back pain, severity of back pain, history of back pain, absence of radiating pain in the leg below the knee, number of comorbidities, patients’ expectation of non-recovery, and a longer duration of the timed ‘Up and Go’ test were significantly associated with non-recovery in a multiple regression model (AUC 0.79). This information can help GPs identify older back pain patients at risk for non-recovery.