Led by the Monash University Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine‘s Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, the research reveals the problem of lower back pain and how its global burden is set to worsen with population increases and the rising proportion of the elderly demographic.
Published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, the study reveals lower back pain as the leading cause of activity limitation around the world, resulting in huge economic burdens for individuals, families, communities, industry and governments.
Professor Buchbinder said the findings were based on data from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study, which assessed ill health and disability arising from 291 diseases and conditions in 187 countries – grouped into 21 regions – for 1990, 2005 and 2010.
“We looked at the prevalence, incidence, remission, duration and risk of death associated with low back pain in 117 published studies covering 47 countries and 16 of the 21 Global Disease world regions,” Professor Buchbinder said.
“We also looked at surveys in five countries about the impact of acute and severe chronic low back pain with and without leg pain, and data from national health surveys in many countries.”
An assessment was then taken on the toll caused by lower back pain in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Professor Buchbinder said these were worked out by combining the number of years of life lost as a result of early death and the number of years lived with a disability.
She said of all the 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Diseases 2010 study, lower back pain topped the league table in terms of years lost to disability, and sixth in terms of DALYs, a statistic that also takes mortality into account.
It was ranked as the greatest contributor to disability in 12 of the 21 world regions and the greatest contributor to overall burden in Western Europe and Australasia.
“With ageing populations throughout the world, but especially in low and middle income countries, the number of people living with low back pain will increase substantially over coming decades,” Professor Buchbinder said.
“Governments, health service and research providers and donors need to pay far greater attention to the burden that low back pain causes than what they had done previously, as the burden is set to continue to increase.”