A new study shows that worldwide back affects nearly 1 in 10 people and causes more disability than any other condition.  It appears to be most common in Western Europe and becomes more common the older we get.

Lower back pain is not usually linked to any serious disease, but can be debilitating and emotionally distressing. It can be triggered by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Annals of Rheumatic Diseases and is the result of joint research carried out in the UK, Australia and the US.

Lead author Professor Tim Driscoll of the Sydney School of Public Health, said that lower back pain arising from ergonomic exposures at work is a major cause of disability.

Activities linked to low back pain occurrence are lifting, forceful movement, awkward positions and vibration.

What did the research involve?

The researchers classified lower back pain into four categories, depending on the level of severity, whether the pain was chronic (long term) or acute, and whether it involved referred pain in the leg. They also reviewed how many people are affected by lower back pain overall; how many people are diagnosed with lower back pain in a specific time period; data on if and when the lower back pain went away and how long it lasted.

What results did the research show?

Researchers found that out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, lower back pain ranked highest in terms of disability (ie years living with disability) than any other condition.

Globally, almost 1 in 10 people had lower back pain, with slightly more men suffering the condition than women.  Both prevalence and burden increased with age.  Prevalence was highest in Western Europe, with 15% suffering back pain.

The researchers say that lower back pain causes more global disability than any other condition. With the ageing world population, this burden can be expected to increase.

Although back pain is not usually linked to any life-threatening conditions, but its effect can be debilitating and distressing.

What you can do if you experience back pain?

Moving throughout the day and avoiding sitting for long periods of time can relieve back stiffness.

Stretching exercises can also be helpful.

Download Tone’s app ChiroMoves to remind you to add in some stretches throughout your day.

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