"Older adults are living longer and healthier active lives, so paying attention to conditions that may threaten independent function is increasingly important," said lead author of the study Eleanor Simonsick, from the National Institute on Aging in the US.
For the study, researchers examined the potential contribution of severity of lumbopelvic pain (LPP) in well-functioning older adults to poorer walking efficiency, lack of endurance, slower gait speed and decline in these mobility parameters over one to five years.
They used an interviewer-administered questionnaire to ascertain reported presence and severity of back and hip pain in the preceding 12 months and reported walking ability, including ease of walking a mile.
Certified examiners assessed usual gait speed, the energetic cost of walking (oxygen consumption, mL per kg/m), and time taken to walk 400 metres as quickly as possible.
Covariates included sex, age, age-squared, race, height, weight, exercise and smoking.
Overall, 31.4 per cent had mild LPP, and 15.7 per cent had moderate to severe LPP.
"In this study, we found that back pain affected nearly half of well-functioning, highly active older adults. We also found that back pain was linked to less energy efficient walking and poorer endurance, which can lead to walking difficulties,"Simonsick said.
These findings suggest that better back pain management may help older adults remain active and free of mobility limitation, the researchers noted.
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