Aching backs impact cost, disability

USBJD project draws attention to burden of musculoskeletal conditions

Low back and neck pain are among the most common physical conditions requiring medical care. They also greatly affect the ability to work and manage daily activities of life. Each year one in two persons will experience back pain severe enough to make him or her aware of it. One in five will experience back pain severe enough to limit the amount or type of work he or she can do, with one in 20 unable to work at all. One in seven persons will spend at least one half day in bed due to back pain. For many, the pain will last only a few days or weeks. However, chronic back pain of months to years often results.

According to two national health surveys, close to 30 percent of the adult population in the United States reported experiencing low back pain. It is also the most common physical condition for which patients visit their doctor. In 2004, 15 percent of the U.S. population visited a physician with a complaint of back pain, a steadily rising rate since 1998 (Fig. 1). Overall, 40.5 million persons sought medical treatment for low back pain in 2004; 4 percent of patients required hospitalization.

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