University of Oulu

Wong et al. Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders (2017) 12:14, DOI 10.1186/s13013-017-0121-3

Low back pain in older adults : risk factors, management options and future directions

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Author: Wong, Arnold YL1; Karppinen, Jaro2,3; Samartzis, Dino4
Organizations: 1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
2Medical Research Center Oulu, Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital
3Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
4Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, The University of Hong Kong
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-06-27


Low back pain (LBP) is one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults aged 60 years or older. While most causes of LBP among older adults are non-specific and self-limiting, seniors are prone to develop certain LBP pathologies and/or chronic LBP given their age-related physical and psychosocial changes. Unfortunately, no review has previously summarized/discussed various factors that may affect the effective LBP management among older adults. Accordingly, the objectives of the current narrative review were to comprehensively summarize common causes and risk factors (modifiable and non-modifiable) of developing severe/chronic LBP in older adults, to highlight specific issues in assessing and treating seniors with LBP, and to discuss future research directions. Existing evidence suggests that prevalence rates of severe and chronic LBP increase with older age. As compared to working-age adults, older adults are more likely to develop certain LBP pathologies (e.g., osteoporotic vertebral fractures, tumors, spinal infection, and lumbar spinal stenosis). Importantly, various age-related physical, psychological, and mental changes (e.g., spinal degeneration, comorbidities, physical inactivity, age-related changes in central pain processing, and dementia), as well as multiple risk factors (e.g., genetic, gender, and ethnicity), may affect the prognosis and management of LBP in older adults. Collectively, by understanding the impacts of various factors on the assessment and treatment of older adults with LBP, both clinicians and researchers can work toward the direction of more cost-effective and personalized LBP management for older people.

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Series: Scoliosis and spinal disorders
ISSN: 2397-1789
ISSN-E: 2397-1789
ISSN-L: 2397-1789
Volume: 12
Article number: 14
DOI: 10.1186/s13013-017-0121-3
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 3126 Surgery, anesthesiology, intensive care, radiology
Funding: This work was supported by grants from the Hong Kong Theme-Based Research Scheme (T12-708/12N), the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (17117814), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Start-up fund (1- ZE4G), and PolyU Central Research Grant-Fund for GRF Project Rated 3.5 (GYBP9)
Copyright information: © The Author(s). 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.