The purpose of this study was to examine whether postural instability observed in persons with spinal pain and in elderly persons is due to changes in proprioception and postural control strategy. The upright posture of 20 young and 20 elderly persons, with and without spinal pain, was challenged by vibrating ankle muscles (i.e. tibialis anterior, triceps surae) or paraspinal muscles. Center of pressure displacement was recorded using a force plate. Persons with spinal pain were more sensitive to triceps surae vibration and less sensitive to paraspinal vibration than persons without spinal pain. Elderly persons were more sensitive to tibialis anterior vibration than young healthy persons. These results suggest that spinal pain and aging may lead to changes in postural control by refocusing proprioceptive sensitivity from the trunk to the ankles.