Ageism, negative attitudes, and competing co-morbidities--why older adults may not seek care for restricting back pain: a qualitative study.
Aged, 80 and over
Back pain, the most common type of pain reported by older adults, is often undertreated for reasons that are poorly understood, especially in minority populations. The objective of this study was to understand older adults' beliefs and perspectives regarding care-seeking for restricting back pain (back pain that restricts activity).
We used data from a diverse sample of 93 older adults (median age 83) who reported restricting back pain during the past 3 months. A semi-structured discussion guide was used in 23 individual interviews and 16 focus groups to prompt participants to share experiences, beliefs, and attitudes about managing restricting back pain. Transcripts were analyzed in an iterative process to develop thematic categories.
Three themes for why older adults may not seek care for restricting back pain were identified: (1) beliefs about the age-related inevitability of restricting back pain, (2) negative attitudes toward medication and/or surgery, and (3) perceived importance of restricting back pain relative to other comorbidities. No new themes emerged in the more diverse focus groups.
Illness perceptions (including pain-related beliefs), and interactions with providers may influence older adults' willingness to seek care for restricting back pain. These results highlight opportunities to improve the care for older adults with restricting back pain.