Low back pain (LBP) is a common symptom among adults but little is known about its persistence over time in defined populations. The aim of this study was to examine the persistence of LBP among a cohort of industrial employees studied in four successive surveys during a total of 28 years. Cross-tabulations and logistic regression was used to estimate the interdependence of LBP occurrence at the surveys. At baseline, 54% of the subjects reported local LBP and 25% LBP radiating to the lower limb(s). Persistent or recurrent LBP was common. Of those with LBP at baseline, 75, 73, and 88% reported it also at the 5-, 10- or 28-year follow-up, respectively. Of those with radiating pain, 66, 65, and 69% were symptomatic 5, 10, or 28 years later. The onset of reporting LBP increased during follow-up. Of those without local LBP at baseline, 33, 37 and 64% had pain at the 5-, 10-, or 28-year follow-up, respectively. Of those without radiating LBP, 17, 22, and 46% had pain at the 5-, 10-, or 28-year follow-up. The odds ratio of local LBP at the 5-, 10-, or 28-year follow-up for those with such pain at baseline vs. not were 6.0 (95% CI 4.3–8.3), 4.7 (3.3–6.6) and 4.0 (2.6–6.3), adjusted for age, gender and occupational class. The respective figures for radiating LBP were 8.5 (5.7–12.5), 6.7 (4.4–10.1) and 2.3 (1.5–3.6). We conclude that LBP is commonly recurrent.
aDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Tietajankatu 28, 53100 Lappeenranta, Finland
bFinnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
cUniversity of Jyväskylä, New York, Finland
*Corresponding author. Tel.\fax: +358 5 419 0061.
Submitted May 23, 2005; revised September 2, 2005; accepted October 24, 2005.