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Spinal Disc Degeneration Common in Elderly

Only severe degeneration correlated with chronic low back pain

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Most elderly adults show signs of degenerative disc disease regardless of whether they have chronic low back pain, although individuals with chronic low back pain tend to have more severe disc disease, according to a study in the May 20 issue of Spine.

Gregory E. Hicks, Ph.D., from the University of Delaware in Newark, and colleagues compared the radiographic severity of degenerative disc and facet disease in the lumbosacral spine of 162 elderly adults (65 years and older) with chronic low back pain and 158 age- and gender-matched pain-free individuals.

The researchers found that more than 90 percent of all elderly adults showed degenerative disc and facet pathology, regardless of whether they had low back pain. The presence of severe disease in the lumbar spine was associated with a higher risk of having chronic low back pain (odds ratio, 2.13). However, there was no association between the radiographic severity of disc and facet disease and pain severity among those with chronic low back pain.

"From a research perspective, radiographic evaluation of spinal pathology provides additional information about older adults with chronic low back pain compared to pain-free individuals, but its clinical utility for diagnostic purposes is still in question," Hicks and colleagues conclude.

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