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Back Facts

Back pain affects most of us:

According to a survey(1) published in 2000 almost half the adult population of the U.K. (49%) report low back pain lasting for at least 24 hours at some time during the year.
In a similar survey carried out 10 years earlier(2) just over one third of the population complained of such back pain.

In 1998(3) almost one in five adults (18%) experienced low back pain for the first time. It is estimated(4) that up to four out of five people (80%) will experience back pain lasting more than a day at some time during their life.

How long does it last?

In 1998 in over half of those people who reported back pain the episode lasted for over 4 weeks - affecting 8 million(3) people and in the case of 2.5 million of these the back pain lasted throughout the year.

Young people are more likely to have brief acute episodes of back pain while chronic pain is more characteristic of older people. There is little difference in the occurrence in men and women.

Risk factors for low back pain

Back pain is spread fairly evenly across the community in terms of age, sex and geography but occupation makes a difference. Over 1 million people have back pain or upper limb disorders.(10)

Reported back pain is most common in those with skilled manual, partly skilled and unskilled jobs.(3)

Some occupations can cause back problems without involving injury. Among these are:

driving a motor vehicle. People who drive over 25,000 miles a year averaged just over 22 days a year off work with a bad back, compared with just over 3 days for low mileage drivers.(11)

driving a train. Train drivers are twice as likely as HGV drivers to report low back pain.(12)

work involving intensive use of the telephone without headsets. 50% of office workers who use a telephone for at least two hours a day and also use a computer report neck pain and 31% lower back pain(13)

being a supermarket cashier - 57% experience lower back pain in a year.(14)

Chronic low back pain is often associated with psychological and social factors - often referred to as 'Yellow flags'.

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