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Lower Back Pain Statistics/Prevalence

Research has shown that around 8 out of 10 of us will have experience of lower back pain at some stage during our lives.  Low right back pain results in significant restrictions on activity and an inability to work or function at a normal level. Pain in the lower back has been shown to be the fifth leading reason for sufferers visiting their doctor and is the primary reason for work-related disability. Lower back pain incurs billions of dollars in medical expenditures each year and the  economic and public health effects are on the rise.Although the condition can be very debilitating, the cause in general is usually not serious and sometimes is not even identified by the doctor.

Lower back pain is most common in people aged between 20 and 40 but elderly patients can find it to be far more severe and disabling. Although these statistics are large, fortunately the majority of people who suffer from back pain will recover and only around 1 in 20 patients will proceed to develop a chronic, (incessant or long-standing,) condition. Back pain has a correlation with vast costs to the economy through both medical expenditure and loss of days worked.

Treatment costs of lower back pain have been increasing for many years although there has not been a comparable improvement in the quality of life for patients suffering from the debilitating condition.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) states that aggregate costs for back pain care have increased by more than 100% since 2004. In a survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association it was discovered that total costs associated with neck and back care increased by a huge 65% between 1997 and 2005. And while back care costs increased more rapidly than the general rise in health care costs during that period, the survey found no noticeable health improvements in the patients who responded. (Respondents were asked to rate themselves on their health status, and were asked to answer questions regarding disability, functioning, work limitation and social roles.)

Medication is at the top of the list of costs, followed by office visits. The researchers suggest that “wider use of new drugs may account for some of this increase.” The new drugs include gabapentin, fentanyl, and time-release oxycodone. The researchers also note that after 2003, when COX-2 inhibitors were taken off the market, use of narcotic pain medication for spinal pain increased.

Both men and women can be equally affected by lower back pain; however the fundamental causes of the discomfort can be different. Females may suffer from lower back pain during pregnancy and during certain times within their menstrual cycle, (more often during menstruation itself.) Conditions such as osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and osteoarthritis, (degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, most common from middle age onward,) are also more common in women. However, men in general are more likely to suffer lower back pain following trauma from playing sport or carrying out more labor-intensive work activities.

The point prevalence of lower back pain in men and women is approximately 5%. Most often men and women aged between 30 and 50 will begin to suffer from the onset of lower back pain.