back pain

Nearly 60% of adults report that they have experienced physical pain in the past three months, with much of the burden on senior adults, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency analyzed pain data from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a household study of U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. Among the 32,000 respondents, 39% said they had back pain, 36% had lower limb pain and 31% experienced upper limb pain. Prevalence of pain in each of these physical locations not only increased with age, but was highest among adults aged 65 and older, CDC reported on Thursday.

Demographics also played a role in pain frequency within age groups, the agency said. Women, non-Hispanic white adults, and those with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level were more likely to have back and upper limb pain than other groups.

In contrast, pain in the back, and upper and lower limbs was lowest among men and non-Hispanic Asian adults. In addition, the percentage of adults who experienced pain in these locations decreased as family income increased.

Location-specific pain has been tied to short- and long-term health effects. These range from minor discomfort to musculoskeletal impairment, diminished quality of life, and escalating healthcare costs, the CDC reported. Research into location-specific pain has been limited to small or special populations, and the current report is meant to allow for greater generalizability, investigators wrote.

The pain data used in this study usually is included on the NHIS questionnaire and is analyzed every other year.