An Overview of Back Pain

Man experiencing back pain after working at his desk

Healthcare professionals know first-hand just how common it is to encounter patients suffering from acute or chronic back pain, as well as how tough back pain can be on patients’ day-to-day lives. You’ve likely treated a few patients who sit in front of a computer all day and are starting to see the toll this lifestyle takes on their backs or those who may have injured themselves during more physically demanding jobs or activities. Their pain may be so intense that they have difficulty moving, or the pain could be milder and prevent them from keeping up with the activities they look forward to. Back pain can take many different forms and require a range of different treatments, and healthcare professionals like you play a critical role in diagnosing patients’ and helping them get back to their daily lives—uninhibited by pain.

This section summarizes the different causes of back pain, the common signs & symptoms of back pain, and the trusted treatment and management options available as you care for your patients. Get started by exploring just how prevalent and disruptive back pain can be among patients with the facts and statistics highlighted below.

Understanding the prevalence of back pain

  • How common is back pain?

    Grandmother playing with her grandchildren

    Back pain is widespread among adults and is one of the most common reasons for which patients seek emergency care.

    It can affect individuals of all ages but the vast majority of people who suffer from back pain in the United States are adults—and the prevalence of back pain among this patient population is significant. See below for key back pain incidence statistics:

    • 84% of adults experience back pain in their lifetimes1
    • 23% of adults suffer from chronic low back pain globally, with once yearly recurrence rates reaching 24% to 80%1
    • 41% of adults who experience back pain are between the ages of 18 and 442
    • 25% of adults with back pain are in fair to poor mental and physical health2
    • 16 million adults—8% of all adults—experience persistent or chronic back pain, and are limited in certain everyday activities as a result2

    Back pain takes a toll on sufferers—as well as the US economy at large. Back pain can limit patients’ daily activities, social lives and ability to participate in the workforce.

    • Back pain is the 6th most costly condition in the United States, with healthcare and indirect costs due to back pain totaling over $12 billion per year2
    • 83 million days of work are lost per year due to back pain, making back pain a leading cause of work-loss days and work limitations2
    • Adults with back pain spend almost 200 million days in bed per year2
    • Health care expenditures for adults with back pain are, on average, 2.5x higher than those of adults without back pain2
    • Smaller proportions of adults with back pain are working (60% of adults with back pain vs. 74% of adults without back pain)2
    • Workers with back pain earn 66% as much as workers without back pain2

    The discomfort caused by back pain can take a serious toll on a patient's physical and mental wellbeing like many types of chronic or acute pain. In fact, 72 percent of adults reporting chronic back pain also report having feelings of sorrow, worthlessness, and hopelessness compared to 61 percent of those without back pain.2 Broaching discussions about patients’ mental health and physical health may be helpful in providing more comprehensive and supportive care for your patients.

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