The prevalence and management of low back pain across adulthood: Results from a population-based cross-sectional study (the MUSICIAN study)

Gary J. Macfarlane, Marcus Beasley, Elizabeth A. Jones, Gordon J. Prescott, Rachael Docking, Philip Keeley, John McBeth, Gareth T. Jones, MUSICIAN Study team

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93 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the current study was to determine: the prevalence of low back pain (LBP) and associated disability; the frequency of consultation to general practice; whether there were differences in management by age. We conducted a cross-sectional population study in Aberdeen city and Cheshire County, UK. Participants were 15,272 persons aged 25 years and older. The 1-month period prevalence of LBP was 28.5%. It peaked at age 41-50 years, but at ages over 80 years was reported by 1 in 4 persons. Older persons were more likely to consult, and the prevalence of severe LBP continued to increase with age. Management by general practitioners differed by age of the patient. Older persons (> 70 vs <40 years) were more likely to only have been prescribed painkillers (odds ratio [OR] 1.74, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.28-2.35) or only pain killers with other medications (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.07-1.98). They were less likely to be prescribed physiotherapy or exercise (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.46-0.85) or to be referred to a specialist (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.57-1.04). Older persons were more likely to have previously received exercise therapy for pain, were less likely to be enthusiastic about receiving it now (P < 0.0001), and were less likely to think it would result in improved symptoms (P < 0.0001). It is important that older persons, who have the highest prevalence of LBP with disability and are most likely to consult, are receiving optimal pharmacological and nonpharmacological management. (C) 2011 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Epidemiology
  • Pain
  • Old age
  • Consultation
  • Management
  • Preference
  • older-adults

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