Physical, Emotional, and Social Impacts of Restricting Back Pain in Older Adults: A Qualitative Study

Una E. Makris, Robin T. Higashi, Emily G. Marks, Liana Fraenkel, Thomas M. Gill, Janna L. Friedly, M. Carrington Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: Back pain is the most common type of pain reported by older adults, yet current management strategies often do not address the multi-dimensional impacts on older adults who face unique challenges as compared with younger populations. The objective of this qualitative study was to assess the physical, psychological, and social impacts of back pain (severe enough to restrict activity, hereafter referred to as restricting back pain) on older adults.

Design: This was a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Setting and Patients: This study was comprised of a diverse sample of 93 community-living older adults (median age 83) with restricting back pain.

Methods: We used a semi-structured guide in 23 interviews and 16 focus groups to discuss the various ways that restricting back pain impacted participants. Transcripts were analyzed in an iterative process to develop thematic categories.

Results: Restricting back pain affected participants physically (inability to execute routine tasks, disruption of sleep and exercise), psychologically (feelings of sadness and irritability, fears about worsening health, loss of hope towards recovery or pain relief), and socially (experiences of isolation, inability to pursue hobbies).

Conclusions: These data inform which outcomes should be measured in studies evaluating treatments for older adults with restricting back pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1235
Number of pages11
JournalPain medicine (Malden, Mass.)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Aged
  • Back Pain
  • Biopsychosocial Model
  • Impact
  • Musculoskeletal Conditions
  • Qualitative Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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