Association of Lumbar Spine Radiographic Changes With Severity of Back Pain-Related Disability Among Middle-aged, Community-Dwelling Women.
Chen L., Perera RS., Radojcic MR., Beckenkamp PR., Ferreira PH., Hart DJ., Spector TD., Arden NK., Ferreira ML.
IMPORTANCE: Previous studies, using mostly cross-sectional data, provide conflicting evidence of an association between lumbar spine radiographic changes and the severity of back pain-related disability. Such conflicting evidence may be associated with widely unnecessary diagnostic imaging of the lumbar spine. OBJECTIVE: To examine both cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between lumbar spine radiographic changes and the severity of back pain-related disability among middle-aged, community-dwelling women. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This population-based prospective cohort study used data from the Chingford 1000 Women Study. Analyses included data collected from year 6 (1994-1996; physical activity was measured), year 9 (1997-1999; treated as baseline), and year 15 (2003-2005), with a total length of follow-up for longitudinal analyses of 6 years. Data were analyzed from April 17 to November 3, 2020. EXPOSURES: Primary exposure was lumbar spine radiographic changes, defined using the Kellgren-Lawrence (K-L) grade. Secondary exposures were defined using presence of osteophytes and disc space narrowing. The composite score combined the number of lumbar spine segments with definite changes detected on radiographic images (ie, radiographic changes) (K-L grade ≥2, which means at least definite osteophyte and possible narrowing of disc space are present; osteophyte and disc space narrowing grade ≥1, which means at least mild or definite changes are present). MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Self-reported back pain-related disability measured in years 9 and 15 assessed by the St Thomas disability questionnaire. RESULTS: Among 650 women (mean [SD] age, 61.3 [5.9] years) in cross-sectional analyses and 443 women (mean [SD] age, 60.6 [6.0] years) in longitudinal analyses, there was no evidence to support an association between higher number of lumbar segments with radiographic changes (K-L grade, osteophytes, and disc space narrowing) and more severe back pain-related disability (eg, cross-sectional analyses using the K-L grade; 1 segment vs 0 segment: adjusted odds ratio, 1.22 [95% CI, 0.76-1.96]). No interactions were found of an association between lumbar spine radiographic changes and the severity of back pain-specific disability with age, body mass index, or smoking status. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort of middle-aged, community-dwelling women, there was no evidence to support an association between a higher number of lumbar segments with radiographic changes (K-L grade, osteophytes, and disc space narrowing) and more severe back pain-related disability cross-sectionally or over time. These findings provide further evidence against routinely using diagnostic imaging of the lumbar spine.