The Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Oxford (RRIO) has been awarded £2 million by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to look at improving the management of lower back pain in older people.

A boost for lower back pain treatment

Lower back pain is now recognised as the leading disabling condition in the world, with over 70% of people suffering with it in their lifetime. Older people in particular are at higher risk of having the most serious forms of lower back pain, leading to mobility decline and falls, as well as frailty and loss of independence – a key concern for this age group.

Despite this, lower back pain in older people is often ignored, missed or mismanaged in primary care. Both patients and their GPs may dismiss treatment for lower back pain, instead accepting it as part of ageing and prioritising the treatment of other health conditions. In addition, although there is a large amount of research on back pain, older people are often excluded from these studies.

The BOOST programme of research (Better Outcomes for Older People with Spinal Trouble) will help primary health care clinicians, patients and their carers recognise when to prioritize the treatment of back pain.  It will also evaluate a physiotherapy programme for people with neurogenic claudication, a condition arising from ageing changes within the spine, which is common in older people and can severely limit their ability to walk and stand.  

Dr Esther Williamson, NDORMS Research Fellow and BOOST project lead says: "Remaining independent is the key concern for older people. Through this work we want to develop evidence based treatment strategies as well as an improved understanding of prognosis and greater knowledge about back pain in older people. By developing effective treatments we hope to reduce pain but also have an impact on broader health comes, helping older people to remain active and independent and preventing falls and frailty."

If you’d like to find out more about this study or be involved, please contact Esther and the BOOST research team via boost@ndorms.ox.ac.uk