Why is low back pain the leading cause of disability in the world?

David Donald

The series’ authors call low back pain the leading cause of disability in the world and suggest ways to reduce it.

More than 540 million people were affected by low back pain at any one time in 2015, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, which tracks the prevalence of deaths and diseases worldwide.

From 1990 to 2015, disability caused by low back pain increased by 54 percent because people are living longer and populations are growing.

These effects hit low-income and middle-income countries the hardest where treatments are unsafe, health care resources are limited and social systems are not equipped to handle the growing burden.

What is Low Back Pain?

Low back pain is typically felt in the area between the lower part of the ribs and Intergluteal cleft (butt crack). Sometimes pain is also felt in one or both legs. For most people the cause of low back is often hard to identify. But for a small percentage of those with low back pain there is an underlying pathology causing it, such as vertebral fractures, malignancy or infection. Those at greatest risk of developing a lower back problem are people who work physically demanding jobs, smokers and obese individuals.

Most people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. It’s more common in women than in men. Most cases of low back will improve on their own.

A Solution to Low Back Pain

While improving the social and economic conditions in low-income and middle income countries would have an enormous effect on low back pain and disability, a different approach is need in high income countries, such as the United States.

The authors say it will take adopting a positive health approach and teaching future generations how to avoid unhealthy patterns and behaviors that contribute to low back pain.

A reliance on treating low back pain with rest and medication have only made the condition worse. Whereas an Increase in activity, such as exercise, has shown to reduce the incidence of low back pain.

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