Study Reveals Impact of Back Pain on Active Older Adults

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging are urging older individuals to actively seek professional help when they begin to suffer from back pain. According to their study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, highly active older adults who experience back pain will eventually find their abilities and mobility diminished if they do not take action to find relief.

The study was conducted by lead author Dr. Eleanor Simonsick PhD, along with Kushang V. Patel PhD, an associate professor from the University of Washington. They found that when active older adults experience back pain, it leads to less energy efficient walking, reduced endurance, and general decline over the following one to five years. Speaking of their findings, Dr. Simonsick said, “Older adults are living longer and healthier active lives, so paying attention to conditions that may threaten independent function is extremely important.”

The study’s goal was to determine how much of an impact lower back pain had on well-functioning older adults. Almost 900 participants between the ages of 60 and 89 were involved, with an interview asking them questions about the presence and severity of hip and back pain over the previous 12 months, as well as the amount of walking that they were able to do and what their level of ease was in walking a mile. The participants were then observed walking, with certified examiners noting their gait speed, the amount of oxygen they consumed while walking, and how long it took them to walk 400 meters as quickly as they were able.

Correcting for variations in gender, age, smoking history, height, weight and amount of exercise usually pursued, the study showed that almost one third of those involved in the study indicated that they suffered from mild hip and back pain, while 15.7 percent reported suffering a greater degree of discomfort. In follow up meetings, they found that the greater the reported severity of pain, the worse the individual’s walking ability and endurance became over time, and that over an average of 2.3 years those who suffered from chronic or new back pain had a meaningful decline in mobility. They concluded that though it was unclear that lower back and hip pain had an impact on long-term health, it had a clear connection to reduced activity, and that it therefore warranted medical attention.

Many people believe that back pain is an unavoidable part of aging, but that is not necessarily true. There are many options for relief of pain caused by degeneration of the disks and spine, and they all start with making an appointment with a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey. If you are suffering from pain, don’t let it impact your active life style. Contact our office today to set up an appointment and learn more about how we can help.

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