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BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009 Apr 20;10:39. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-39.

Pain in the lumbar, thoracic or cervical regions: do age and gender matter? A population-based study of 34,902 Danish twins 20-71 years of age.

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  • 1The Back Research Center, University of Southern Denmark, Ringe, Denmark. clyde@health.sdu.dk.



It is unclear to what extent spinal pain varies between genders and in relation to age. It was the purpose of this study to describe the self-reported prevalence of 1) pain ever and pain in the past year in each of the three spinal regions, 2) the duration of such pain over the past year, 3) pain radiating from these areas, and 4) pain in one, two or three areas. In addition, 5) to investigate if spinal pain reporting is affected by gender and 6) to see if it increases gradually with increasing age.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2002 on 34,902 twin individuals, aged 20 to 71 years, representative of the general Danish population. Identical questions on pain were asked for the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions.


Low back pain was most common, followed by neck pain with thoracic pain being least common. Pain for at least 30 days in the past year was reported by 12%, 10%, and 4%, respectively. The one-yr prevalence estimates of radiating pain were 22% (leg), 16% (arm), and 5% (chest). Pain in one area only last year was reported by 20%, followed by two (13%) and three areas (8%).Women were always more likely to report pain and they were also more likely to have had pain for longer periods. Lumbar and cervical pain peaked somewhat around the middle years but the curves were flatter for thoracic pain. Similar patterns were noted for radiating pain. Older people did not have pain in a larger number of areas but their pain lasted longer.


Pain reported for and from the lumbar and cervical spines was found to be relatively common whereas pain in the thoracic spine and pain radiating into the chest was much less common. Women were, generally, more likely to report pain than men. The prevalence estimates changed surprisingly little over age and were certainly not more common in the oldest groups, although the pain was reported as more long-lasting in the older group.

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