Risk factors for restricting back pain in older persons

Una E. Makris, Liana Fraenkel, Ling Han, Linda Leo-Summers, Thomas M. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives: To identify risk factors for back pain leading to restricted activity (restricting back pain) in older persons. Design: Prospective cohort study. Setting: Greater New Haven, Connecticut. Participants: A total of 731 men and women aged 70years or older, who were community living and nondisabled in essential activities of daily living at baseline. Measurements: Candidate risk factors were ascertained every 18months for 108months during comprehensive home-based assessments. Restricting back pain was assessed during monthly telephone interviews for up to 126months. Incident episodes of (1) short-term (1 episode lasting 1month) restricting back pain; and (2) persistent (1 episode lasting 2 or more months) or recurrent (2 or more episodes of any duration) restricting back pain were determined during each 18-month interval. The associations between the candidate risk factors and short-term and persistent/recurrent restricting back pain, respectively, were evaluated using a multivariable Cox model. Results: The cumulative incidence was 21.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] 19.6%-23.1%) for short-term restricting back pain and 20.6% (CI 18.6%-22.9%) for persistent/recurrent restricting back pain over a median follow-up of 109months. In a recurrent event multivariable analysis, female sex (hazard ratio [HR] 1.30; 1.07-1.58), weak grip strength (HR 1.24; 1.01-1.52), and hip weakness (HR 1.19; 1.07-1.32) were independently associated with an increased likelihood of having short-term restricting back pain, whereas female sex (HR 1.48; CI 1.13-1.94), depressive symptoms (HR 1.57; 1.23-2.00), 2 or more chronic conditions (HR 1.38; 1.08-1.77), and arthritis (HR 1.66; 1.31-2.09) were independently associated with persistent/recurrent restricting back pain. Conclusion: In this prospective study, several factors were independently associated with restricting back pain, including some that may be modifiable and therefore potential targets for interventions to reduce this common and often recurrent condition in older persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-67
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Aged
  • Back pain
  • Cohort studies
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Policy
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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