High baseline fat mass, but not lean tissue mass, is associated with high intensity low back pain and disability in community-based adults

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Objectives: Low back pain is the largest contributor to disability worldwide. The role of body composition as a risk factor for back pain remains unclear. Our aim was to examine the relationship between fat mass and fat distribution on back pain intensity and disability using validated tools over 3 years. Methods: Participants (aged 25-60 years) were assessed at baseline using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to measure body composition. All participants completed the Chronic Pain Grade Scale at baseline and 3-year follow-up. Of the 150 participants, 123 (82%) completed the follow-up. Results: Higher baseline body mass index (BMI) and fat mass (total, trunk, upper limb, lower limb, android, and gynoid) were all associated with high intensity back pain at either baseline and/or follow-up (total fat mass: multivariable OR 1.05, 95% CI 1.01-1.09, p < 0.001). There were similar findings for all fat mass measures and high levels of back disability. A higher android to gynoid ratio was associated with high intensity back pain (multivariable OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.01-1.08, p = 0.009). There were no associations between lean mass and back pain. Conclusions: This cohort study provides evidence for the important role of fat mass, specifically android fat relative to gynoid fat, on back pain and disability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number165
Number of pages8
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2019


  • Android
  • Body composition
  • Fat mass
  • Lean tissue mass
  • Low back pain

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