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The Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Oxford (RRIO) led by Professor Sallie Lamb of NDORMS 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.

The Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Oxford (RRIO), led by Professor Sallie Lamb of NDORMS, 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.

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 , and to explore and hopefully counter prejudices held by older people and clinicians.  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 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 outcomes, helping older people to remain active and independent and preventing falls and frailty." CSM's Bethan Copsey is providing statistical support to this trial.

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

CSM members Doug Altman and Gary Collins are co-applicants on the BOOST study, and Karan Vadher is the supporting trial statistician.