Cost of Back Pain in Older Adults

June 25, 2013 by Dr. Ihsan O. Erhuy

As with many other chronic conditions, the cause of back pain in older adults may be very different than in younger individuals. Back pain may occur at almost any time during the lifespan, though studies indicate that that seniors and the elderly have a disproportionately higher risk for falling – which can result in debilitating pain. Research also shows that genetics play a role in disc degeneration, which can also cause pain. For elderly patients especially, an episode of low back pain needs to be evaluated by a qualified medical professional.

Back pain is discomfort felt in the back that can originate from muscles, nerves, bones, joints, or other spinal structures. Degenerative changes in the lower back are normal in the aging process. Discs lose water content, which allow adjacent vertebrae to approximate each other, increasing wear on the cartilage. Nerve roots may get compressed and impinge on the spinal canal, causing pain. Pain intensity can range from light muscle or posture-related discomfort to debilitating pain that greatly reduces the quality of life. The good news is that on most occasions, back pain can be successfully treated without surgery using alternative options such as muscle stimulation, chiropractic care and physical therapy.

At Mountain View Pain Center, our team of chiropractic care professionals treats low back pain, mid back pain, neck pain and extremity pain. We deliver expert advice, the highest quality of chiropractic care available, advanced soft tissue work, and state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs.

The Prevalence of Back Pain

According to the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) – a study evaluating the impact of an aging population on back pain – the prevalence of back pain has increased by 29%, and chronic back pain has increased by 64%. The average age of adults with back pain has increased from 45.9 to 48.2 years. Expenditures on ambulatory services for chronic back pain have increased by 129% – from $15.6 billion (2000-2001) to $35.7 billion (2006-2007). Researchers concluded that the prevalence of back pain, especially chronic back pain, is increasing and will likely increase.
Back pain may have systemic causes, may be mechanical, or may be acute (sciatica). Elderly people with back pain most commonly have uncomplicated mechanical low back pain. The discomfort tends to worsen with stretching, twisting, walking, or bending. Acute radicular back pain (sciatica) radiates or continues down one leg in a way that is described as sharp, tingling, shooting or “electrical.” It can worsen when coughing, straining, or sneezing.

The Cost of Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most expensive health problems in the U.S. today. A survey by the Journal
of the American Medical Association
found that total expenditures for neck and back care increased by 65% between 1997 and 2005. According to the AHRQ, a total of $30.3 billion was paid to providers in 2007. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that spine care costs reached nearly $86 billion in 2005, and that low back pain alone accounted for 2% of all physician visits in 2005.

At Mountain View Pain Center, our doctors use various diagnostic methods to evaluate your health, focusing on your spine and bone structure. We are committed to relieving your pain and restoring you to good health. We accept almost every insurance plan, including Medicare. If you have any questions about your plan, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.


Asher, Anne. (2012). Back Pain Prevalence and Statistics: Epidemiology As It Relates to Back Pain.

Smith, M., Davis, M.A., Stano, M., Whedon, J.M. (2013). Aging baby boomers and the rising cost of chronic back pain: secular trend analysis of longitudinal Medical Expenditures Panel Survey data for years 2000 to 2007, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. (1): pp.2-11.

Martin, B., Deyo, R.A (2008). Original Contribution Expenditures and Health Status Among Adults With Back and Neck Problems JAMA. 299(6): 656-664.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States: Cost Data. NCCAM website.

Soni, A. PhD. (2010). Back Problems: Use and Expenditures for the U.S. Adult Populations in 2007. Statistical Brief #289. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The evaluation of the elderly person with acute low back pain. Medscape Family Medicine, 2007.

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