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OBJECTIVE: Vertebral deformity is associated with back pain and disability. The aim of this analysis was to determine whether location within the spine influences the strength of association between vertebral deformity, back pain and disability. METHODS: Men and women aged 50 years and over were recruited from population registers in 30 European centres. Subjects were invited for an interviewer administered questionnaire, and for lateral spinal radiographs. The questionnaire included questions about back pain, general health and functional ability. The spinal radiographs were evaluated morphometrically and vertebral deformity defined according to the McCloskey-Kanis method. RESULTS: 756 (11.7%) men and 885 (11. 8%) women had evidence of one or more vertebral deformities. Among women with a single deformity, after adjusting for age and centre, those with a lumbar deformity were more likely than those with a thoracic deformity to report back pain, both currently (OR=1.4; 95% CI 1.0, 2.0) and in the past year (OR=1.5; 95% CI 1.0, 2.3). No association was observed in men. Among women with two deformities, those with adjacent deformities were more likely than those with non-adjacent deformities to report poor general health (OR=2.2; 95%CI 0.9, 5.6), impaired functional ability (OR=1.9; 95%CI 0.8, 4. 7) and current back pain (OR=2.1; 95%CI 0.9, 4.9), though none of these associations were statistically significant. By contrast, among men, non-adjacent deformities were associated with impaired functional ability compared with those with adjacent deformities. CONCLUSION: Location within the spine influences the strength of association between self reported health factors and vertebral deformity.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann rheum dis

Publication Date





368 - 371


Aged, Back Pain, Female, Humans, Lumbar Vertebrae, Male, Middle Aged, Osteoporosis, Sex Factors, Spinal Diseases, Thoracic Vertebrae