Life course epidemiology provides a framework to investigate how health and well-being develop over the lifespan - from childhood through adult life and into old age - as well as the factors influencing health trajectories. Thus, life course epidemiology helps us understand when musculoskeletal conditions start, how they progress over time, what affects their prognosis, and whether a prognosis can be modified through prevention or treatment.
Back pain episodes, as well as other musculoskeletal conditions, have traditionally been regarded as individual events, but new knowledge indicates that for many, these are chronic, recurrent conditions.
In addition, evidence is mounting that the pain experience tends to persist over long periods so that people with pain continue to experience recurrences for years, whereas in contrast, people without pain tend to never develop pain.
Back pain in adolescence results in decreased physical activity and lower quality of life, and often tracks into adulthood. In adults, back pain results in work disability, loss of social identity, and significant individual and societal costs.
In the elderly, back pain is associated with reduced physical function, loss of independence, a range of other diseases and even premature death. We need to better understand these patterns over the life course so that adverse trajectories can be changed through prevention and treatment.
- Develop and implement a long-term research program investigating possibilities for the primary prevention of back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders
- Identify factors that influence the trajectory of back pain at different stages of life
- Describe best practice for treatment and prevention of back pain and musculoskeletal disorders and their consequences at different stages of life
- Identify how back pain and other types of musculoskeletal pain occur in clusters in some individuals and how this relates to their general health and prognosis.