Most older adults’ back pain remains unchanged after 5 years
A recent survey found that 57% older adults said their back pain had not improved in the 5 years after initially presenting to their general practitioner.
“While it is known that spine pain can be difficult to treat, it is surprising that over half of patients had pain 5 years later,” Ron I. Riesenburger, MD, director of the Spine Center at Tufts Medical Center, told Healio Primary Care. “This number is higher than expected.”
The survey, which took place in the Netherlands and was published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, included 675 patients aged 55 years and older. At the 5-year follow-up, 392 responded.
The survey showed that most patients stopped seeking the advice of their medical professional during that 5-year span.
Obidiugwu K . Duru, MD, MSHS, professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, suggested that some patients may simply give up and accept their pain, rather than seek alternative treatment.
“Back pain is a lot like knee arthritis in that it is always lurking in the background,” he said in an interview. “As our patients get older, they are more likely to have other degenerative conditions that take longer to heal and aggravate these conditions. Our patients may even throw their hands up and say not it is not worth trying any other treatments. But we as physicians need to push back and say, ‘Let’s keep trying.’”
According to Duru, clinicians need to encourage more healthy living among their patients, “that way patients don’t have to live in constant pain.”
Additionally, Riesenburger said general practitioners “should strongly consider referring patients with back pain of over 3 months to an institution with a spine center, which typically consists of a team of nonoperative and operative spine specialists working together to treat back pain.” – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: The authors, Duru and Riesenburger report no relevant financial disclosures. Neither Duru nor Riesenburger were involved with van der Gaag and colleagues’ survey.