Home > Back Basics > The Prevalence of Back Pain

The Prevalence of Back Pain

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Prevalence; Incidence; United Kingdom;

Before being able to provide statistics regarding the prevalence of back pain, the terms prevalence and incidence must first be defined. Prevalence is the estimated number of people living with or managing back pain at any given time, which could be a calendar month or an annual rate. Any research into discovering these rates must define the time span that the study has been taken over. Incidence is interpreted as the annual diagnosis rate therefore it is obvious to see that the two terms can achieve very different results and should not be confused.

Prevalence of Back Pain within the U.K.

The lower back has the unfortunate function of being responsible for supporting most of the body's weight, therefore making it particularly vulnerable to damage and strain. It wouldn't be presumptuous to assume that the incidence rates will increase significantly in forthcoming years due to the population overall becoming increasingly obese.

It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, that up to 4 out of every 5 adults aged 16 or over, will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime, whether it be only for one or two days or longer periods of several months. Of these numbers, around one fifth reported it as their first occurrence of experiencing back pain. Around 19 per 20 reported cases of acute back pain are classed as simple low back pain or as being 'non-specific'. Of these, three-quarters have a significantly reduced amount of pain or are pain free and resuming normal activity within 4 weeks; of the remaining sufferers, 9 out of 10 are pain free at 6 weeks.

Back pain is more prevalent between the ages of 35 and 55, perhaps due to the nature of occupational hazards. There is also a trend for back pain to be more common in women of middle age, possibly because of the onset of osteoporosis in this group.Across Great Britain, there seems to be no major differences in the prevalence of back pain between counties, more between sex, occupation and lifestyle choices.

Costs to the NHS

Coming second only to the common cold, back pain is the highest reason for patients to seek medical advice accounting for almost 7 million GP visits annually. Estimated costs to the NHS are around £481 million per year, with a further £197 million in non-NHS costs such as private consultations and prescriptions.

Effects on Business

Many back injuries occur in the work-place and costs to UK business can be in excess of £5 billion annually, with 50 million days of absence and upwards of 30% of employers’ accident litigation cases being accounted to back pain. The average number of days lost annually per sufferer is around 19. The actual costs are hard to discover as incapacity and loss of ability to carry out daily activities are incalculable.

International Prevalence

Global statistics vary greatly with possible reasons being due to the lack of access to medical practitioners, financial constraints to accessing healthcare, differences in diagnostic tools, unreported numbers with sufferers coping alone and individual and cultural differences in pain perceptions and thresh holds.

Prevalence in Children

The actual statistics determining the presence of back pain in children is very difficult to gauge, as any back pain that doesn't resolve within a few days needs medical attention as it could be a sign of a multitude of potentially serious medical conditions. Such conditions may come with other symptoms causing medical advice being sought, adding to the difficulty in measuring the statistics.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Micky
    Re: Ligament Damage and Back Pain
    I had prolapse of rectum op in 2001.he also said he had repaired a ligament.cane home couldn't bare down to open bowels.lost…
    21 April 2017
  • Vis
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    i have enjoyed the literature.
    17 April 2017
  • KFreedOM
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I'm so glad to have read this article about dehydration affecting the disc. It just happened to be something that I was curious about and decided…
    26 December 2016
  • Kal
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I was suffering from sciatic pain for nearly 1 year and don't have any idea what is the reason for pain. After 1 year 3 weeks back I went to…
    26 November 2016
  • Skb24 going on 75
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 24 and i have severe back pain i have a buldging disc in my L1 and L5 almost my entire lower lumbar is dehydrated and i have lost nearly 50%…
    21 November 2016
  • billa
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 25. My mri result shows I hv got dehydration of L4/5 disc.my doctor advice me to take Diclofenac and hv physiotherapy ,but I Still hv pain…
    16 October 2016
  • Salsybar
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    Hello all Im a newbie on here ...my long road started 4 years ago I had always been a fitness fanatic..vegetarian and look after myself At the…
    14 October 2016
  • Lorie
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    All dics on mri are dehydrated with bulging at c4 and c5 also L4 and L5 amd an elongated conus medullaris. I have radiculopathy from neck to…
    7 October 2016
  • madan
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    My father is 51 his spin has dislocated Lower region due to this he suffer pain on his one whole leg suggests me what should we do
    13 September 2016
  • zane
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    I can literally see one of the nobs(disks or whatever it's called) on my back that is moved to right of my spine and out of line with the rest…
    25 August 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the BackPainExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.