Under the assumption that a certain degree of degeneration is normal in old age, the changes that significantly lead to discomfort should be identified. Care should be taken to ensure that the geriatric patient receives adequate treatment and can quickly return to a normal pain-free life.
A prospective study was performed on symptomatic outpatients who came for a magnetic resonance (MR) examination of the spine. The presence of spinal stenosis, osteochondrotic and spondylarthrotic changes and nerve root affections were assessed. A brief interview was conducted to assess impairment of daily life, duration of symptoms until contact with the physician, and resulting impairment. The results were correlated with age, the groups of patients under and over 65 years of age, and the pain score.
Age is significantly positively correlated with facet joint arthrosis, spinal stenosis, osteochondrotic changes and intraforaminal nerve root affection. There is no significant correlation between the pain score and age. The pain score shows significant correlation to nerve root affection, facet joint osteoarthritis and spinal constriction. The duration of pain until a visit to the treating physician is significantly shorter in older patients, while the impairments in everyday life are significantly more pronounced under the existing back pain.
Age itself is not correlated with pain perception. Isolated features such as nerve root affection and facet joint arthrosis show a positive correlation with the pain. The older patient goes to the doctor more quickly because the back pain is perceived as a restriction of daily life.