Background : It is generally believed that the prevalence of back pain increases with age and as the proportion of elderly will keep rising we may be facing serious public health concerns in the future. Aim The aim of this systematic literature review is to establish whether back pain (i.e. neck, mid-back and/or low back pain) becomes increasingly common in the older population, specifically to study 1) whether there is a significant increase in the prevalence of back pain after middle age, and 2) whether there is a significant gradually increasing prevalence of back pain with continued old age.
Methods : A systematic literature search was conducted in Pubmed on articles in English, published between January 2000 and July 2011. Non-clinical studies from the developed countries with prevalence estimates on elderly people (60+) on any type of self-reported back pain and on different age groups with adequate sample sizes were included in the review. The included articles were extracted for information by two independent reviewers.
Results : A total of 12 articles were included covering the entire spine. Neck pain was studied nine times, low back pain eight times, back pain three times, upper back two times and neck/shoulders once. All studies showed no significant increase of back pain with age, neither when passing from middle age (i.e. 45+ years of age) into the sixties, nor later in life. In contrast, most studies reported a decline for the oldest group.
Conclusions : Back pain is no more common in the elderly population (>60 years) when compared to the middle age population. Back pain does not increase with increasing age, but seems to decline in the oldest people.
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