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Eur J Pain. 2014 Feb;18(2):279-87. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2013.00363.x. Epub 2013 Jul 19.

Characteristics of older patients with back pain in general practice: BACE cohort study.

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  • 1Department of General Practice, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



Although back pain is common among older people, limited information is available about the characteristics of these patients in primary care. Earlier research suggests that the severity of back symptoms increases with older age.


Patients aged >55 years visiting a general practitioner with a new episode of back pain were included in the BACE study. Information on patients' characteristics, characteristics of the complaint and physical examination were derived from the baseline measurement. Cross-sectional differences between patients aged >55-74 and ≥75 years were analysed using an unpaired t-test, Mann-Whitney U-test or a chi-square test.


A total of 675 back pain patients were included in the BACE study, with a median age of 65 (interquartile range 60-71) years. Patients aged >55-74 years had a mean disability score (measured with the Roland Disability Questionnaire) of 9.4 [standard deviation (SD) 5.8] compared with 12.1 (SD 5.5) in patients aged ≥75 years (p ≤ 0.01). The older group reported more additional musculoskeletal disorders and more often had low bone quality (based on ultrasound measurement of the heel) than patients aged >55-74 years. Average back pain severity over the previous week showed no difference (p = 0.11) between the age groups, but severity of back pain at the moment of filling in the questionnaire was higher (p = 0.03) in the older age group.


In this study, older back pain patients reported more disabilities and co-morbidity. However, the clinical relevance of these differences for the course of the back pain episode in older patients remains a subject for further research.

© 2013 European Pain Federation - EFIC®

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