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Being mindful of back pain in baby boomers

Media release

New research by Curtin University has examined the relationship between pain beliefs and low back pain (LBP) in baby boomers, finding poorer beliefs are associated with greater disability.

Lead researcher Dr Darren Beales, from Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, said back pain beliefs (BPBs) were an important determinant of both disability and the experience of LBP, not only in baby boomers (individuals born between 1946-1964) but the wider population.

“There is growing interest in the role of beliefs regarding LBP, especially beliefs related to the cause, impact and treatment of the disorder, as beliefs and expectations can facilitate or inhibit pain responses in the brain and are central drivers of behaviour and recovery,” Dr Beales said.

“For this study, we looked at back pain beliefs in baby boomers because they are a group at risk of decreased activity levels and reduced productivity, hoping to provide additional insight into keeping this age group active and productive.”

The study involved performing a cross-sectional evaluation of BPBs using data obtained from 958 baby boomers involved in the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study (BHAS).

Dr Beales said LBP had been experienced by the majority of the BHAS cohort and had resulted in impacts on activity levels.

“More positive BPBs were associated with younger age, better mental wellbeing and higher income, while more negative beliefs were associated with receiving sickness or disability benefits and experiencing LBP in the previous month,” Dr Beales said.

Dr Beales said the results highlighted that BPBs were an important tool in determining back pain-related disability in baby boomers.

“Characterisation of the relationships between BPBs and LBP-associated behaviours and disability in baby boomers can assist in developing interventions to improve activity participation and productivity, potentially reducing the burden of LBP in this age group,” Dr Beales said.

“Key strategies in meeting the societal needs of the baby boomer generation now and into the future include promotion of active lifestyles and community participation due to the positive effects they have on health and wellbeing.”

 The paper, titled Back Pain Beliefs Are Related to the Impact of Low Back Pain in Baby Boomers in the Busselton Healthy Aging Study, was published in the Journal of American Physical Therapy Association, and can be accessed here: http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/95/2/180.