Not So Golden After All

The Complexities of Chronic Low Back Pain in Older Adulthood

Meredith L. Stensland, PhD, LMSW; Sara Sanders, PhD, MSW


Gerontologist. 2018;58(5):923-931. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background and Objectives: The study objective was to understand how Chronic low back pain (CLBP) impacts key aging concepts such as retirement, housing, health, and independence.

Research Design and Methods: Twenty-one pain clinic patients (66–83 years old) with CLBP engaged in 23 in-depth semistructured interviews, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Guided by van Manen's phenomenological method, researchers used line-by-line thematic coding to analyze data through an iterative process.

Results: Participants' accounts illustrate the interplay between aging and living with CLBP. Under the larger theme "Not so golden after all," results are reflected in five subthemes: (a) Falling apart; (b) Pain stigmatizes aging; (c) Hurting slowly, aging quickly; (d) Pain threatens independence; (e) The reality of unrealized futures.

Discussion and Implications: This study improves our understanding of how CLBP complicates growing older with regard to tarnished retirements and stigmatization. Findings highlight the importance of coordinated care and recognition of pain-related loss.