Do Older People Simply Accept Back Pain?

October 15, 2014
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back pain in the elderlyIn a recent study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, researchers found that while older people are more likely to suffer from lower back pain, they are less likely to seek treatment.

The cross-sectional telephone survey determined that 12.3% of older adults experienced chronic lower back pain versus 6.5% of adults aged 21-44. In addition, older adults with chronic lower back problems experienced pain for a longer time and became more disabled than younger adults. Surprisingly, the older adults were less depressed about their situation.

The older adults were also less likely to seek or receive treatment. Whether the treatment was bed rest, medications or alternative care, older adults were less likely to receive these treatments than younger adults. Why?

Though the study did not focus on the “whys” of their findings, one might consider the expectations of older adults versus younger adults. As we age, the snap, crackle, pops, aches and pains certainly seem to become more prevalent. If we think this is the normal aging process, we may be less inclined to seek treatment, merely accepting lower back pain as yet another sign of the unstoppable aging process.

In addition, older adults living on a fixed income might be less likely to spend money on lower back pain. Indeed, conventional treatment for lower back pain may become quite costly, especially if surgery is suggested. However, chiropractic care is regarded as a more favorable and effective treatment for lower back pain compared to medication or surgery. It is also a more affordable and less invasive choice; both of which may appeal to older adults.

Knauer SR, Freburger JK, Carey TS. Journal of Aging and Health. 2010 Dec;22(8):1213-34. 

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