News ID: 209600
Published: 0744 GMT February 07, 2018

Back pain: agonizing condition 'blights lives of half of active older people'

Back pain: agonizing condition 'blights lives of half of active older people'
A daily brisk walk reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even dementia.

Back pain blights the lives of almost half of older people considered extremely active, according to new research.

Better management of the condition is the key to enabling them to maintain their mobility, said scientists, wrote.

A daily brisk walk reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even dementia.

The study of almost 900 participants age 60 or over followed for more than two years found a link between back pain and worse walking endurance.

Lead author Dr. Eleanor Simonsick, of the National Institute on Aging, said, “Older adults are living longer and healthier active lives, so paying attention to conditions that may threaten independent function is increasingly important.

“In this study, we found that back pain affected nearly half of well-functioning, highly active older adults.

“We also found that back pain was linked to less energy efficient walking and poorer endurance, which can lead to walking difficulties.

“These findings suggest that better back pain management may help older adults remain active and free of mobility limitation.”

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found back pain is common in highly active older adults, with many well-functioning participants experiencing it.

Simonsick, said that back pain may serve as a catalyst for future loss of mobility in active older individuals.

Her team recruited 878 well-functioning men and women aged 60 to 89 who completed a questionnaire about presence and severity of back and hip pain in the preceding 12 months.

They were also asked about walking ability, including ease of completing a mile with certified examiners assessing usual gait speed, the energetic cost of walking, such as oxygen consumption, and the time taken to cover 400 m as quickly as possible.

Overall, about one in three (31.4 percent) had mild lower back, or 'lumbopelvic', pain (LPP) and nearly one in six (15.7 percent) moderate to severe.

She said, “Reported walking ability, endurance walk performance and energetic cost of walking were worse with increasing LPP severity.”

This was the case after factors including age, sex, weight and smoking were taken into account.

“Usual gait speed did not vary according to LPP.

“Longitudinally, over an average 2.3 years, persons with new or sustained LPP had worse follow-up level, greater mean decline, and higher likelihood of meaningful decline in reported walking ability than persons free of LPP or whose LPP resolved.”

“LPP was common in well-functioning older adults and was associated with greater energetic cost of walking and poorer perceived and observed walking endurance.

“The longitudinal effect of LPP is unclear, but worsening perception of walking ability and its contribution to future mobility loss warrants further attention.“

She said that lower back pain affects up to two in three older adults in a given year, but there has been little research into the issue among otherwise well-functioning individuals.

“That is, persons with no walking limitations and whether back pain may serve as a catalyst for mobility decline through its potential contribution to poorer walking efficiency and related manifestations, including compromised walking endurance, slower gait speed, and faster decline in mobility parameters over time.

“The population examined here was not only well functioning, but also highly active, with more than 40 percent spending at least 150 minutes per week in exercise-related activities, in contrast to approximately 3 percent of the general population of older adults.

“Future work should address the potential functional benefits of early identification of LPP and response to restorative treatment strategies.”




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