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The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study
  1. Damian Hoy1,
  2. Lyn March2,
  3. Peter Brooks3,
  4. Fiona Blyth4,
  5. Anthony Woolf5,
  6. Christopher Bain6,7,
  7. Gail Williams8,
  8. Emma Smith9,
  9. Theo Vos10,11,
  10. Jan Barendregt8,
  11. Chris Murray11,
  12. Roy Burstein11,
  13. Rachelle Buchbinder12,13
  1. 1University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Herston, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2Department of Rheumatology, University of Sydney Institute of Bone and Joint Research, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Australian Health Workforce Institute, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4University of Sydney, School of Public Health, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5Department of Rheumatology, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, UK
  6. 6National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberrra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  7. 7Genetics and Population Health Division, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brsibane, Queensland, Australia
  8. 8School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia
  9. 9Department of Rheumatology, Northern Clinical School, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  10. 10School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Seattle, Washington, USA
  11. 11Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  12. 12Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Mebourne, Victoria, Australia
  13. 13Monash Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Cabrini Institute and Monash University, Mebourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Damian Hoy, University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Herston Rd, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia; damehoy{at}


Objective To estimate the global burden of low back pain (LBP).

Methods LBP was defined as pain in the area on the posterior aspect of the body from the lower margin of the twelfth ribs to the lower glutaeal folds with or without pain referred into one or both lower limbs that lasts for at least one day. Systematic reviews were performed of the prevalence, incidence, remission, duration, and mortality risk of LBP. Four levels of severity were identified for LBP with and without leg pain, each with their own disability weights. The disability weights were applied to prevalence values to derive the overall disability of LBP expressed as years lived with disability (YLDs). As there is no mortality from LBP, YLDs are the same as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

Results Out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, LBP ranked highest in terms of disability (YLDs), and sixth in terms of overall burden (DALYs). The global point prevalence of LBP was 9.4% (95% CI 9.0 to 9.8). DALYs increased from 58.2 million (M) (95% CI 39.9M to 78.1M) in 1990 to 83.0M (95% CI 56.6M to 111.9M) in 2010. Prevalence and burden increased with age.

Conclusions LBP causes more global disability than any other condition. With the ageing population, there is an urgent need for further research to better understand LBP across different settings.

  • Low Back Pain
  • Epidemiology
  • Outcomes Research

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