What is the global prevalence of mechanical low back pain?

Updated: Mar 06, 2018
  • Author: Everett C Hills, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Stephen Kishner, MD, MHA  more...
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Answer

Mechanical low back pain (LBP) exists in every culture and country. Worldwide, more disability is caused by LBP than by any other condition, as measured in years lived with disability (YLDs). [15, 16, 17]  A report by Hurwitz et al stated that in 2015, low back pain of over 3 months’ duration was experienced by more than 500 million people globally. That year, low back pain and neck pain together accounted for the fourth highest number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide, behind ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and lower respiratory infection. The report concluded that the prevalence of low back pain and neck pain has risen since the late 20th century and will probably keep on increasing in response to aging populations. [18]

Estimates by numerous investigators indicate that at some point in their lives, 80% of all human beings experience LBP.

Mechanical LBP is more prevalent in countries with higher per capita income and where more liberal policies and adequate funds provide for compensation (eg, Germany, Sweden, Belgium).

In Sweden, the level of insurance benefits for disabling LBP is 100%, compared with a range of 0-80% in the United States. In 1987, the percentage of the work force placed on a sick list for diagnoses associated with back pain was 8% in Sweden versus 2% in the United States. In the same year, the average number of days of back-related absence from work per patient per year in Sweden was 40, versus 9 in the United States.


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