Approximately 85% of people will experience back pain1. Of these people 50% will recover within 2 weeks and 90% within 6 weeks. Recurrence is frequent with 40-60% of patients reporting a recurrence of acute back pain. 2-7% develop chronic pain2. 70% of back pain is caused by minor strains to ligaments and muscles and intervertebral joint dysfunction. 10% is caused by spondylosis (synonymous with osteoarthritis and degenerative back disease), intervertebral disc prolapse is proven in 6-8% of cases with referred pain, psychogenic disorders and serious spinal pathology accounting for the remainder.

Risk factors for future back pain:

Generally, the incidence of acute back pain decreases above the age of 60, however, in the event that one does continue to have episodes of back pain, it is likely to become more frequent and more constant with increasing age.
Research shows that the number of days off work due to back pain is similar between the ages of 16-64,3 suggesting that there is no relationship between back pain, increasing age and time off work.

Social class has a significant bearing on the risk of developing back pain. Professionals, such as Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, are in the category of worker who experiences the least back pain, least low back disability and
least work loss due to back pain. Generally occupations requiring heavy manual work, lifting and twisting, whole body vibration, where the work is monotonous, where there is lack of personal control and low job satisfaction increase the risk of back pain.4

Reducing the risk of chronic back pain:

The risk of episodic back pain can be greatly reduced with a preventative management program consisting of

  • Education – on your personal risk factors, achieving your best posture and ergonomics in your work and your daily activities and sports.
  • Exercise – specifically suitable to you to help maintain movement, flexibility and maintain a health weight
  • Osteopathic examination and treatment – specific to you and your needs to regularly address muscle tightness and general stiffness which may be caused by your work, activities and stress.
  1. Sloane P, Slatt M, Baker R. Essentials of family medicine, baltimore, Williams & Wilkins, 1988:228-35
  2. Barton S ed. Clinical Evidence. London. BMJ Publishing Group, 2001: 772-87
  3.  Mason V. the prevelence of back pain in Great Britain. Office of populaiton censuses and surveys social survey division, London 1994
  4. Waddell G. The Back Pain Revolution, Sydney, Churchill Livingstone, 2000
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