Back Pain: Why Me?

If you or someone you know suffers or has suffered, from back pain, you are by no means alone. Back pain is very common.  Almost half of all adults suffer from back pain that lasts for at least a day each year.

How Common Is Back Pain?

  • Back pain is so common that it is highly likely that the majority of us will suffer from it at some point. Estimated 60-80% of people are affected by back pain at some time in their lives. 
  • Back pain is one of the main reasons for absence from work, and each year millions of working days are lost due to back pain.In western countries (e.g. the UK and the USA) the incidence of back pain(particularly pain in the lower back) has reached epidemic proportions. 
  • One survey has reported that 17.3 million people in the UK (about one-third of the adult population) are affected by back pain at any one time. Of these, 1.1 million people are disabled by back pain. 
  • Low back pain is the most frequent cause of limitation of activity in the young and middle-aged and is one of the most common reasons for seeking a medical consultation. Every year about 5 million people see their GP because of back pain. 

Changing Trends in Back Pain

Back pain is becoming a bigger problem that it once was. Since the mid-1990s, the incidence of back pain in the UK has risen by 12.7% and outpatient attendances for back pain are now five times greater. But why is this?

Many possible explanations have been proposed:

  1. We are more aware of our health and well-being than we used to be. If we have a problem we are more likely to seek medical help than suffer in silence.
  2. We expect more from our health services. When we go to see the doctor with back pain, we expect them to be able to do something about to it.
  3. We work longer hours than we used to and are under more stress in our everyday lives.
  4. Changes in our diet and the popularity of convincing foods (coupled with our reluctance to exercise) means we are more overweight than we used to be.
  5. We lead increasingly sedentary (or inactive) lifestyles. We drive for longer periods, take less exercise and spend hours sitting in front of the television or computer.